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Looking Differently at the Same Situation

by 5m Editor
8 April 2002, at 12:00am

By Dr. Tim Safranski State Swine Breeding Specialist - Heterosis or hybrid vigor is the tendency for crossbred animals to perform better than the average of their parents. It results because there is heterozygosity at more loci which represent multiple biochemical pathways for responding to the environment. I'm a big believer that heterosis can occur in our farms as well. If we can maintain the ability to look at situations from different angles we will be more likely to successfully adapt to challenges.

Ron Plain
Tim Safranski
State Swine Extension Specialist
Heterosis or hybrid vigor is the tendency for crossbred animals to perform better than the average of their parents. It results because there is heterozygosity at more loci which represent multiple biochemical pathways for responding to the environment. I'm a big believer that heterosis can occur in our farms as well. If we can maintain the ability to look at situations from different angles we will be more likely to successfully adapt to challenges.

Perhaps the most effective method I have found that helps me to look at Missouri's swine industry differently is to leave Missouri. In January I spoke at the annual meeting of the Oregon Pork Producers Council. In visiting with producers there I had new insights. In February I spent two weeks in Russia. Visiting with the professors and the producers there also helped me to have a different perspective.

Oregon is not a top 10 hog producing state. It never has been, and it's hard to imagine it ever will be. Mainstream agriculture in Oregon is grass seed or lumber. Oregon pork producers, therefore, lack a lot of the infrastructure that many Midwestern states take for granted.

That presents challenges in areas such as a critical mass for political or educational issues. It has the positive effect, however, that Oregon pork producers don't have strong preconceived notions about how the industry should be structured.

I was pleased to have the chance to visit with an old college friend of mine during the banquet (I graduated from Oregon State University). He is still in the business, but told me he did not remember the last time he took a load of pigs to the plant (a several hundred head per day plant). I asked whether his reproduction had been that bad. He explained that he has been able to direct market all the production from his 70 sow herd. Buyers come to the farm and pick up their pigs at market weight, and pay him 65 cents per pound.

The first farm I visited in Russia was also very different from what we think of as farms here in the Midwest. Two brothers operate it with about 120 employees. They have 120 cows, 150 ewes, 35 sows and farm 22,000 acres. Clearly these are business oriented farmers.

Prior to my trip I found it difficult to collect data regarding the Russian swine industry. I asked the brothers where they marketed their pork. They said they had two primary outlets: the preferred method was to sell it fresh locally. When they over produced for the market they sold it on the Internet and delivered it fresh.

In both Oregon and Russia factors influencing farming decisions were different than those facing Missouri producers. Environmental pressures, cost of labor, confidence in the future were different. They have different histories and different futures.

So should Missouri producers be selling direct or via the Internet? Those are business decisions that have to be made for each farm, and they are not trivial decisions (food safety laws, etc.).

By studying other systems, however, one can look at issues facing Missouri producers from a new perspective. Take advantage of oportunities to study other models, even if it means volunteering to spend two weeks in Russia. The experience is great and you bring back new perspectives to evaluate your farm.

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