With sustained high feed prices continuing to put producers under pressure, pig-breeding company ACMC demonstrated at the British Pig and Poultry Fair how the use of genetically-superior stock can reduce production costs.
The company claims to be unique in the way it tests its pigs — individually testing both sire and dam lines — rather than simply the male side — using the sophisticated FIRE (Feed Intake Recording Equipment) system.
“Although expensive, this system has a considerable impact on the speed of genetic improvement,” commented Ed Sutcliffe, ACMC’s technical director. “This selection method of incorporating feed recording can improve overall accuracy of selection by 10 per cent, but when you look at the response of individual traits, it can increase the rate of improvement of FCR by as much as 60 per cent.”
Taking into account the improvement seen in both sire and dam lines, over 10 years this has led to a 0.293 improvement in feed conversion ratio resulting in the average slaughter pig consuming more than 25 kg less feed to 94 kg liveweight.
Using figures from the BPEX 2007 Yearbook and adding 50 per cent to the cost of feed to give a price of £197.33 per tonne, to reflect current levels, Mr Sutcliffe has calculated that the value of this improvement is £4.99 per pig.
Again using the BPEX Yearbook figures, for an average size sow herd of 437 selling 19.71 pigs annually, this adds up to a feed saving of no less that £42,955.51 — an average improvement of £4,295.55 per year over the 10-year period.
The savings in the individual lines are even greater, he points out. For instance, feed conversion of the Vantage boar, which accounts for 50 per cent of the genetic make-up of the slaughter pig — has improved by 50 per cent, or 0.393, equivalent to £6.72 per pig.
These figures take account of the reduced feed needed for maintenance, but not the simultaneous improvement in growth rate, which allows for increased piggery throughput, also cutting costs.
“The significance of genetic improvements is that they are ‘locked in’ to the breeding stock’s make-up so producers can continue to benefit from them,” said Mr Sutcliffe. “Recording feed on dam lines is as important as doing so on sire lines as they contribute just as much to the makeup of the slaughter pig. With high feed prices it is no longer sufficient for dam lines to simply rear high numbers, they must also be efficient pigs to finish,” he added.