Seth Dunipace, a graduating senior at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, has been awarded a coveted Fulbright grant to study swine abroad.

Dunipace will be spending the 2011-2012 academic year studying and conducting research in Denmark. He is the first graduating veterinary student in more than 15 years to be awarded a Fulbright grant.

Dunipace is a native of California and a graduate of Princeton University. He gained a special interest in swine farming since arriving at the Penn veterinary school. He spent last summer in Denmark studying Danish methods of swine husbandry and medicine.

“I chose Denmark because they work under very high animal welfare standards,” he says. “The current project was developed to further my understanding of management and veterinary practices of Danish swine farmers.”

Dunipace is especially interested in efforts to decrease the stillbirth rate of piglets born to Danish sows. Danish sows are known to give birth to large litters of 14 piglets or more, but the percentage of stillbirths within each litter is high.

“You would like to see the percentage decrease, both from an economic and welfare standpoint,” he says.

By 2013, sows in the European Union will be housed in open pens and can only be confined to gestation crates for a short time following breeding.

At the Swine Teaching and Research Center at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, PA, researchers are studying alternative methods of swine production similar to those practiced in Europe.

“Exposure to these alternative systems provides future swine veterinarians with expertise that will be needed by the next generation of pig farmers and undoubtedly helped position the forward-thinking Dunipace for his successful Fulbright bid,” says Tom Parsons, VMD, director of the New Bolton Center.

Dunipace will first travel to Copenhagen, then visit swine facilities throughout the country, applying research on management procedures for a master’s thesis at the University of Copenhagen.

“Good welfare is tied to economics,” Dunipace says. “Unless you make welfare economical for producers, you won’t be able to advance the policies.”

The Fulbright Program is the major international educational exchange program introduced by the late Sen. J. William Fulbright and sponsored by the federal government. Its aim is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. There are about 1,500 scholarships awarded each year.

For more information about the research at Penn Vet, visit www.vet.upenn.edu/Research.