Most everyone knows The Maschhoffs raise pigs for market, but only a few know just what goes into creating our line of pigs. Our team works day in and day out to find the best traits and characteristics to continue to ensure our pigs are competitive in the market, and it all starts with the females.
For starters, what is differentiated about our program is our approach. When we make a replacement female, we cross three lines instead of two, which makes our strategy somewhat unique in the industry. This “ABC” combination is what we feel maintains our competitive position in traits such as feed efficiency and litter size.
A deeper approach
With any market pig, we breed genetic lines for breed-to-wean (BTW) value drivers and wean-to-market (WTM) value drivers—and the right balance of these categories is what keeps us efficient and profitable.
The maternal line accounts for both BTW and WTM value drivers. As a result, how we select genes for a maternal line is more complex. There is more involved in making a female because of the breadth of traits she has to account for. Above all else, maternal line breeding has an end goal of making a BTW unit more productive, which will make the whole system more efficient, all the while contributing to the genetic potential of her progeny in WTM value drivers.
So, what do we look for in traits when breeding mamas? From a BTW perspective we evaluate all the items that contribute to the number of Grade A weaned pigs she will produce annually. Questions include:
- How many pigs are in her litter?
- Can she raise them through weaning?
- What is her ability to maintain body condition and breed back efficiently?
- What is the length of her productive life, taking into account things like structural soundness and continued fertility?
She also contributes half the genes in terminal market animals, so we also look at WTM factors:
- What is her ability to convert feed to lean muscle?
- What is her growth efficiency?
- What is her carcass value, especially in terms of backfat and loin depth?
- What is the probability her pigs will make it to harvest weight?
- Is her meat quality high in attributes like marbling and color?
Great sows come from great stock
While the process might sound simple, the sows we use for genetic breeding weren’t created overnight. They come from long lines of successful breeding, both from internal and industry-provided lines, and it all starts with the great grandparent (GGP) stock. From there it moves to the grandparents (GP) and then the parent (P) stock (see graphic).
There are many great genetic lines available in the industry, and we chose the top three that best fit our system through rigorous research and development testing. We use one of our two proprietary lines, developed in-house, at the GGP level to ensure the core of the program is designed specific to The Maschhoffs’ system. From there, we balance that line with those available in the industry. Not all lines are created equal, and this approach allows us to combine strengths across lines to develop a commercial female with the optimum combination.