Chinese Genes Can Boost British Pig Productivity

UK - An extra pig a litter - worth over 3100 per sow annually - could be achieved by commercial pig farmers with the use of stock containing Chinese genes. This could help put British farmers back on top of the European 'productivity league', according to international pig breeding company, ACMC.
calendar icon 11 May 2006
clock icon 4 minute read
"This approach has the potential to reduce the cost of production by 6p per kg of pigmeat sold and improve the net margin of the average pig producer's herd (515 sows) by £51,500 a year. It could increase the British pig industry's returns by £44 million and restore its competitive edge within the international market-place," said Matthew Curtis the company's managing director.

Over two decades, Yorkshire-based ACMC has incorporated genes from the hyper-prolific Meishan breed into its pig-breeding programme following an importation of that breed in the 1980s. From these it developed its own purebred damline, the Meidam. This has 16 teats and an average litter size of 13 (compared with 14 and 11.5 respectively for the Landrace), and is used to produce the commercial parent.

These are now being used on commercial farms and it is the on-farm results that are leading to these claims, said Mr Curtis. Speaking on the eve of the British Pig and Poultry Fair, he said: "Both large and small herds with different levels of performance report this extra pig reared per litter when these genes have been introduced. One herd has even achieved a farrowing average of 40 pigs per sow a year from 11 per cent of his herd!

"Sample herds showed commercial producers to be rearing over three pigs per sow annually above the national average for the system they are running," he added.

While traditional selection for litter size is slow due to low heritability and suffers from the 'single trait' approach to selection for reproductive output, the Meidam offers distinct advantages, pointed out Ed Sutcliffe, ACMC's technical director. The increased heritability in the Meidam gives a 30 per cent better rate of improvement than traditional white breeds.

Although the original Meishan is highly prolific, it has a very poor carcase. But, following highly successful within-line selection in the Meidam, the breed now compares favourably with other damlines.

"ACMC have invested heavily in conventional performance testing. At any one time there are up to 560 boars and 200 gilts undergoing individual feed recording, to maximise progress in efficiency traits," he said.

"With this approach, we believe we can offer stock that is genetically 30 years ahead of that from any other company," he said.

More pigs - demonstrated here by ACMC vet Elena Miguel. More than an extra pig a litter reared is being achieved by many commercial herds - worth over £100 per sow. ACMC has invested heavily in individual performance testing, through the FIRE (Feed In take Recording Equipment) system to achieve genetic progress and at any one time has up to 560 boars on test. Edward Sutcliffe, ACMC technical director, demonstrates the fact that carcase quality has not been sacrificed in the quest for productivity.
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