Reach out to the consumer, pig industry advised

by 5m Editor
17 September 2004, at 12:00am

UK - The British pig industry has been urged to adapt and "reach out" to the end-consumer. It should 'de-commoditise' its products to achieve sector growth and improve margins by adding value, Roland Bonney of the Food Animal Initiative told the 15th Annual JSR Technical Conference, held at Nottingham University.

Roland Bonney - FAI
Roland Bonney is Communications and Business Development Director at Food Animal Initiative (FAI). He is a main board Director for the Benchmark Holdings group. Roland is a senior consultant analyst in policy formulation and implementation systems and has world-wide experience of farm management and agri-supply chain issues. Having studied agriculture and worked in the UK Roland worked in primary agriculture in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. In the mid 90’s Roland co-founded rlconsulting which became part of the Benchmark group in 2000.

UK agriculture had strengths upon which the industry could capitalise, he suggested. These included a "strong legislative baseline" in most consumer areas, including public health, environment, animal and worker welfare and controls to ensure the safe use of drugs. The UK livestock industry also had known health status and impartial assurance schemes.

Traceability was actually better than perceived, with local produce giving a shorter chain and lower 'food miles'. Production was carried out to a known standard and operated "in full view of the consumer". Importantly, there was reduced opportunity for food terrorism. Traceability could be used as a tool to account for certain qualities.

Mr Bonney pointed out that an industry that is not valued dies - citing the poor quality of the British car industry and expensive British coal, which was no different from other coal, as examples.

The greatest opportunity, he said, came from higher value products and those which could only be supplied by the home market. Only the most efficient industries, which were best adapted, would survive and these had to learn how to embrace the future.

More on Monsanto Choice Genetics A new source of genetic markers - single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) - could play a key role in selection programmes of the future, according to Dr Michael Lohuis, of the Monsanto Company in the United States.

Expensive data collection schemes, such as feed intake, could be substituted by marker selection eliminating significant costs from genetic improvement programmes.

This would also offer the opportunity for pork processors and retailers to take advantage of lines specifically improved in certain meat quality traits. These could command higher brand loyalty or better prices.

If previously unimproved traits could now be improved significantly with marker assisted selection (MAS), then new products could be produced creating new markets for pork.

"If marker assisted selection is not used equally within the industry, which is certainly the case at present, one would expect comprehensive MAS programmes to produce a noticeable product superiority that should translate into increased market share," he said.

More on JSR Genetics To remain competitive in Europe, UK pig producers should aim for a production cost of no more than 90p per kg, suggested Glenn Dams, managing director of JSR Group production."

Restocking a herd was such a sound investment it could pay for itself within 18 months through improvements in performance by allowing pigs to demonstrate their full genetic potential, he explained.

Improvements achieved in feed conversion efficiency and cost-savings on overheads by a restocked JSR herd equated to almost 7p per kg reduction in production costs, with a further 4p per kg attributable to increased growth and throughput from increased productivity.

The old herd, which had occupied the unit for 20 years had contracted APP and PMWS within the previous two years, adding to the EP and PRRS already present.

Compared with the average performance for a 473-sow herd recorded in the MLC Yearbook, the financial benefit amounted to £96,000. Production improved by six per cent, worth £19,000; feed conversion by nine per cent (£25,000); growth rate by eight per cent (£35,000) while overheads fell by five per cent (£17,000). In addition, mortality was reduced by 10 per cent and veterinary and medicine costs plummeted by a massive 50 per cent.

Reductions in production costs of 5-7p per kg through the use of superior genetics, moves towards batch weaning, together with concerns over health problems - such as PMWS - has lead to an upsurge in the use of AI in the UK herd.

Whereas in 1998 around 35-40 per cent of services were via AI, compared with 60-90 per cent on the continent, the increasing use of AI in Britain against a background of a declining national herd, means that usage is now on a par with that in Europe, said Angela Cliff, AI technical services manager for JSR Genetics.

However, there was still an inconsistency in reproductive performance from the use of AI across the pig industry. While some units managed good performance, others continued to under-achieve. The reasons for this were unclear and difficult to identify.

Applying new technologies offered the prospect of countering any negative environmental effects to reduce the variation.

Deep Artificial InseminationThe advent of "deep AI" offered interesting possibilities, believed Angela Cliff, through elimination of leakage and reduction of sperm loss in the cervical folds, while less time was required for the introduction of semen. Inseminators needed to be well trained, but results from on-farm trials looked promising, reflecting European experience.

Using the deep AI technique gives the sperm a "good start" by helping to overcome immune response of the sow's body to the presence of semen. The use of semen additives, such as oxytocin analogue and immuno-suppressant could also help in this respect.

Source: JSR Genetics - 16th September 2004