University pigs heading for market

Posted: Friday, August 11, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- All 28 swine at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Experimental Farm will be gone by fall, but they won't be goners. At least most of them won't be.

The fancy Yorkshire porkers, crowd pleasers along the Tanana Loop every summer for decades, will remain breed stock and placed within the state. Five, however, will be slaughtered, but that's an annual occurrence, said Carol Lewis, interim dean of the School of Agriculture and Land Resources Management, which is making changes at the quaint roadside farm.

The ill-fated pigs will end up as picnic fare for the school, Lewis said.

The farm's 18 cattle also will be moved out, but will be retained by the school at the Matanuska Experimental Farm in Palmer. After leaving town next week, they'll reappear part-time during fall and winter semesters.

That leaves 23 reindeer, housed across the street from the pigs and cows, as the only permanent residents of the farm this winter.

The changes are being made for a couple of reasons, both of them tied to the age of budget cuts for most of the past decade.

First and foremost, the school no longer has a swine researcher. In fact, the school won't be getting a new swine researcher in the foreseeable future. When it was sharply cut during a failed restructuring, the school shrunk its animal sciences faculty from five members to two. Milan Shipka is the animal staff these days. He's a specialist in ruminant (hooved animals) reproductive physiology and is the chairman of the search committee looking for a new reindeer specialist. When that professor is hired, the staff will be complete.

''The only reason a research station has animals is if you have someone there to conduct research,'' Shipka told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The second reason the move has been spurred is because UAF's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee flunked the farm after a May inspection. The committee, chaired by university professor John Blake, cited concerns in a July letter provided by Shipka.

With the exception of one incomplete proposal, the committee had not received any research or teaching proposals that involved the cattle and swine at the farm since 1988, the oldest records the committee had.

The committee was disturbed by the dilapidated conditions of the cattle and swine barns and the fencing of the holding area. Also alarming: A sow with a severe, chronic legion on the right front leg and a bleeding sore on the left rear leg, which was visible from the public viewing area.

Finally, the committee said health problems were a ''continual issue'' and that a veterinary care program needed to be put in place.

Daily care of the animals wasn't an issue in the report. But the infractions were deemed important enough for the committee to rebuke the farm and threaten to withdraw its oversight, which is critical for a research institution.

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