PIC Matters Newsletter
PIC Matters – The newsletter from the PIC-Team in the UK
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Farrowing rate is one of the key drivers of pig farm performance and efficiency, says Sebastian, technical services specialist for PIC. He notes that five areas are pivotal to achieving good farrowing rates: heat detection, the insemination process, semen management, feed management/body condition, and choosing the right females.
Looking beyond breeding and semen handling for answers
Traditionally, when farrowing rate trends are flat or down, our first instinct is to blame breeding or semen. However, there are more factors involved that influence farrowing rates and many times data is pointing us in a different direction.
PIC took an in-depth look at trends to further understand all factors affecting farrowing rates and how they impact each other on a system level. The goal? Find opportunities and make every mating count.
Hit these targets for best lifetime performance, cost savings
As genetics advance, so have parameters for gilt eligibility at first breeding. Meeting eligibility requirements set gilts up for a successful first parity and subsequent parities for maximum lifetime performance. PIC defines gilt eligibility using these four components:
- Age at puberty
- Age at first breeding
- Body weight at first breeding
- Number of oestrus at first breeding
Within each of these components, specific targets are identified. Hitting all targets on each gilt served is vital to optimize cost-efficiency, longevity and lifetime performance. Each target is equally important. Research shows meeting just two or three of the four targets will not have the same positive results.
Three areas help determine an animal’s robustness.
The term “robustness” means different things to different people, but producers know it’s an important component in raising pigs. William Herring, Ph.D., PIC Director of Genetic Development, sees robustness as the ability of the pig, through genetic improvement, to grow and convert feed, to become a full-value market pig with a low potential for mortality, and to wean many high-quality piglets in the face of normal disease challenges. Robustness is the ability of the pig to be resilient in the face of those conditions, and then extends through finishing in the form of efficient gain in challenged conditions, he says.
From a genetic improvement perspective, Herring puts robustness into three categories: gilt and sow soundness, pre-weaned piglets, and wean-to-finish pigs.
Genetic progress delivered from the Elite Farms to the commercial level creates economical benefits for pork producers. The faster genetic progress is transferred down the pyramid, the more economically beneficial it is for producers as genetic lag is being reduced.
The reproductive cycle of pigs determines the existence of a genetic lag. However, if we can improve the efficiency in transferring the genetic progress, producers experience the genetic improvement in their operations faster, thereby increasing the efficiency of the entire production system and profitability: higher weight gain, higher piglet survival at all stages of production, more piglets born, lower feed conversion and etc.
The pig sector has undergone a continuous development during the last decades, a process that has accelerated during the last 5 years due to increasing globalisation and the implementation of new technologies. Genetic companies have to face these challenges and adapt to the accelerated process of changes. In consequence they need to provide more efficient, more sustainable genetics and services to pig producers globally to ensure and further improve their competitiveness.
Let’s have a look at the challenges of the future pig sector
The domestication from the wild boar to the domestic pig centuries ago was the onset of genetic improvement in pigs. Then afterwards, different breeds and lines were developed. At the start of the 20th century herd books in Europe started to maintain pedigree records and advocated selection on physical appearance. This continued into the 1950’s when additional gains were achieved on backfat reduction and growth rate improvement through measuring these traits on individual animals. At the same time, physical appearance was still very important. As data recording methods and genetic evaluation methods evolved, breeding goals changed. At the same time, pig breeding moved from genetic improvement through open herd books towards breeding specific lines by individual breeding companies.
PIC: Where it all began – A small group of Oxford farmers …
For more than 20 years PIC has been a supplier of elite pig genetics from Europe and North America to Rus-sia. PIC’s customers in Russia rank in the top 20 largest pork producers in the country. With Russia’s objective to become one of five world-leading pork exporting countries and ensure local genetic safeguarding and additional contingency, in 2018 PIC decided to find a partner and create a high-level breeding farm in Rus-sia to produce elite sows and boars with high genetic merit.
In 1962 PIC was founded in the UK when pig producers weaned an average of less than 10 pigs per sow per year. As an emergence of a monthly discussion group of farmers organised by an agricultural economist of the University of Reading debating how they could improve their pig business the Pig Improvement Company became a genetics provider which has since had such an impact on the global pig and pork production sector. In 2020 some PIC customers achieve with more than 38 pigs per sow per year a quadruplication of the early results.
And the rate of improvement shows no signs of slowing down. Four key pillars are driving accelerated gain:
- Large populations drive selection intensity
- Meaningful data capture focuses on what’s most important
- The best science drives accuracy of selection
- Selection is based on realizable commercial profit
Freneystown: The latest addition to PIC’s Elite Farm System
PIC delivers genetic improvement with continued expansion
In May 2020, 1,000 gilts and boars traveled with first-class treatment onboard a Boeing 747 from the U.S, landing safely in Dublin, Ireland. They were heading to Freneystown in the Irish countryside, home to Hermitage Genetics’ flagship farm. These animals are some of the most productive in the world, and will form the elite population of the latest addition to PIC’s elite farm network – Freneystown.
The PIC Europe Health Assurance Team has created a document which provides background information and on-farm staff recommendations regarding the Corona-Virus COVID-19.
PIC Pork Quality Programme: A Quarter of a Century of Progress Award Winners 2016 | Pig Farmer of the Year Award: Steve Hart, Norfolk Free Range | National Pig Awards and BQPs Annual Farmer Awards Night