VPC Visits Tidewater AREC to Learn More About Ongoing Swine Research

The Virginia Pork Council Board of Directors met Friday, January 27, 2023 at the Tidewater AREC in Suffolk, Virginia.

Prior to the VPC Board Meeting, the VPC was pleased to hear from Dr. Alan Harper, former Director of the Tidewater Research Station, now Southampton Academy‚Äôs Science Instructor (part-time), with focus on Agri-science.  Upon his retirement, Dr. Harper has created curriculum for Southampton Academy to incorporate an Agri-science Class into the Sciences department.  His curriculum includes a field trip to the Tidewater AREC in addition to teaching students about soils, crops, commodities, and animals so that they understand from where comes food, feed, fiber and fuel they use, wear, and eat every day.

Dr. Mark Estienne, Professor and Swine Research Physiologist, and VPC board member then led a tour of the Swine Research Center headquartered at the Tidewater Research Station, highlighting the ongoing research.  Due to biosecurity, participants donned gear and signed in to ensure the health and safety of the sows, boars, gilts, and piglets alike.  From start to finish, participants saw the life cycle of swine research, starting in the farrowing room, then to the nursery and grow-finish room; next the tour highlighted the breeding-gestation stage featuring electronic feed process (EFP), and finally the semen collection room.

The ongoing research will benefit all members of the swine industry by applying to economics and impacting your bottom line, whether you are a corporate or contract grower. 

Matthew Chappell, Director, Tidewater AREC, then provided an update to the group on the future of the Swine Research Program and its plan to move animals to the new swine center in Blacksburg by 2025.  While it is planned for Dr. Estienne and Ms. Williams to stay at the Tidewater AREC and conduct off-farm research after 2025 with willing private partners, all animals will be moved to the new Kentland Farm center for on-site research to take place there.

The VPC would like to receive your comments surrounding future plans for the Tidewater AREC Swine Research Program here.

Our thanks to Dr. Mark J. Estienne, Kimberly A. Williams, Maguerite B. Cross, Richard T. Niblett and Alexis L. Clapp for their research, dedication and hard work throughout the years and to all at the Tidewater AREC for their hospitality as well.