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Does China have access to genetics to rebuild its breeding herd?

16 November 2020, at 1:00am

African swine fever (ASF) has devastated the entire pig industry in China, and their breeding herd has suffered incredible losses due to the disease.

Dr. Dave Pyburn, chief veterinarian at the National Pork Board, speaks to The Pig Site's Sarah Mikesell about how China plans to rebuild its breeding herd.

“What we're hearing now is that they are trying to rebuild their breeding herd and trying to bring it back up to their former capacity, so they can produce pork within their own country and not have to import as much,” said Dr. Dave Pyburn, chief veterinarian at the National Pork Board. “What we're also hearing is that breeding genetics are really in short supply over there. So, in a lot of cases, what producers are doing is they're keeping any gilts that get up to market weight and holding them back and putting them back into the breeding herd.”

This approach can help rebuild, but it may not be able to bring back their capacity like it was before.

“The reproductive efficiency of those gilts will not be anything near what they had in their original breeding herd,” he explained. “It's going to take some time, and if they're going to do it that way, it'll help some, but over time they're going to need to get back to the point where they've got true breeding herd genetics that's leading their industry.”

Importing genetics

Genetics are being imported, according to Pyburn, but the problem isn’t about getting them into the country rather it’s about finding enough genetics to supply the Chinese market.

“When you start looking at the size of their industry and the huge losses, they've had due to African swine fever, there's just is not enough breeding or genetics to supply them,” he said. “Just like when we talk about pork exports and the size of the hole that they've got right now as far as the reduction in pork for their own consumers, there's not enough out there between all the exporters of pork globally to be able to fill that hole.”

Other proteins are being imported to fill some of the pork void that China currently has.

“We've heard about fish; we've heard about chicken, but we also hear that Chinese consumers still prefer pork. It's their number one pick,” he noted.