Ramping up research

$8 million grant will expand MU’s National Swine Center

The University of Missouri has received an $8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to expand the National Swine Resource and Research Center on MU’s campus, which officials say should speed up scientific discoveries in biomedical research.

The center, which was established in 2003, has become the go-to researchsource for genetically modified pigs used by researchers across the United States to study various diseases that impact humans. Keeping up with the ever-growing demand amid limited resources has become a challenge, said Randall Prather, principal investigator and professor in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Requests for genetically modified pigs constantly come in from researchers at universities all over the country, and the current facility has maxed out its capacity.

“We undertake projects for things that have failed in studies with mice but are much better suited for pigs,” Prather said. “For example, you can’t take a mouse’s heart and transplant it into a human. It’s not going to work. But pigs are far more genetically and physiologically similar to a human, so they are very good biomedical models to study human diseases. The cardiovascular systems are very similar between pigs and humans, and baby pigs are also great for studying infant nutrition, as their nutritional requirements are very similar to humans.”

The center has received funding from the NIH for 20 years. Construction on the expanded facility, which will have extremely high biosecurity protocols, is expected to begin in February 2024 and be completed by summer 2025.

While the NSRRC is mainly focused on biomedical studies, Prather’s work also has agricultural applications, such as making pigs that are resistant to certain diseases. The research has implications for both agriculture and human medicine.

“One example is the only genetically modified pig that has been approved for human consumption designed for people who suffer from red meat allergy,” Prather said. “We discovered that by disrupting a gene that produces a specific sugar molecule on the surface of cells within pigs, humans with red meat allergy can eat the genetically modified pork without suffering from any digestive issues.”

Prather invented the patent for this technology that is now owned by MU. In January 2022, surgeons in Maryland successfully transplanted a pig heart into a human patient for the first time ever. Prather’s decades worth of research, work with genetically modified pigs and knowledge of pig-to-human organ transplants helped contribute to the historic accomplishment.

“Our goal is to provide resources and knowledge so that others can be successful in helping people,” Prather said. “Our work is a part of medical solutions for people, and this expanded facility is crucial because pigs have so much potential for solving real-world problems. We are just one step in the journey, and it is satisfying to be a part of it.”

Read more in this Dec/Jan2023 issue of Today’s Farmer


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Missouri 4-H team takes top honors at national judging contest

For the first time in the team’s history, Missouri 4-H finished as No. 1 in the nation at the 2022 All-American Dairy Show Invitational Youth Dairy Cattle Judging Contest, held Sept. 19 in Harrisburg, Penn. The team of Payton Nix of Mountain Grove, Lila Wantland of Niangua and Whitney Yerina of Phillipsburg finished ahead of Florida and Kentucky to win the contest.

“All three team members finished in the top 20,” said Karla Deaver, University of Missouri Extension 4-H youth development specialist and co-coach of the team. “They were very consistent across breeds, and that gave us the edge.”

Nix scored as third high individual overall, second high individual in Ayrshires, ninth in Brown Swiss, third in Holsteins and fifth in oral reasons. Yerina was 10th high individual overall in the contest and 12th in Holsteins. Wantland finished 19th overall and was seventh in Ayrshires and 11th in Guernseys.

The team was second in Ayrshires by 1 point. They were also fourth in Brown Swiss and Holsteins, fifth in Guernseys and sixth in oral reasons. Contestants placed 10 classes and gave four sets of reasons. The team is coached by Deaver and MU Extension dairy specialist Ted Probert.
Nix, Wantland and Yerina also had a historic showing Oct. 2 at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., where they competed in the 100th National 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging Contest. Deaver said all three 4-Hers were named “All-American,” and the team placed second in Holsteins, the best finish ever in that breed. They were also ranked third in Jerseys and sixth overall out of 20 competing teams.

DairyStarsMissouri 4-H finished as the high overall team at the 2022 All-American Dairy Show Invitational Youth Dairy Cattle Judging Contest in September. Team members are, from left, co-coach Karla Deaver, Lila Wantland, Payton Nix and Whitney Yerina.


Read more in this Dec/Jan2023 issue of Today’s Farmer



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MFA is new sponsor of Missouri High School Rodeo

In MFA’s continuing commitment to supporting youth in our trade territory, MFA’s Agri Services Division, along with MFA Feed and Farm Supply, announce a new corporate sponsorship of Missouri High School and Junior High Rodeo Association. 

Photo by Ricki Cooper HigginsAs a sponsor, MFA will be represented at high school and junior high rodeo events with banner displays, a flag in opening ceremonies, arena announcements and other opportunities. As much as possible, local MFA Agri Services stores will be promoted when rodeos are held in their communities.

Established in 1956, Missouri High School Rodeo Association (MHSR) currently has more than 200 members from across Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma. MHSR is a state affiliate of the National High School Rodeo Association.

MHSR rodeos have contestants in both high school (9th-12th grade) and junior high (5th-8th grade). High school contestants compete in barrel racing, pole bending, breakaway roping, goat tying, bull riding, bareback riding, saddle bronc, team roping, tie-down calf roping and steer wrestling. Junior high contestants compete in breakaway roping, ribbon roping, goat tying, barrel racing, pole bending, team roping, tie-down calf roping, chute dogging and bull riding. Both divisions feature shooting sports. In 2022, MHSR added cutting to its high school division events.

A list of events and other information can be found online at missourihsrodeo.com.

Read more in this Dec/Jan2023 issue of Today’s Farmer


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