Maschhoff Memo: Testing–Testing–1, 2, 3...

By Clint Schwab

Species adapt to exploit any environment they’re in. Because a terminal sire line can change company value so quickly, and because different animals perform differently in different environments, there’s a value we can create by selecting animals to specifically fit our system. 
Our genetic lines not only create value for our system, but we have created animals that are the best fit for their specific environment. By virtue of how replacements are tested and selected, these lines are tailored to how The Maschhoffs operates. 
There are various dimensions of a production system that make each player in the industry unique. For instance, stocking methods, pig flows and health status are all examples of how systems are different. The genetic improvement approach used within our proprietary lines takes into account those factors to ensure we’re creating progress that can be expressed at the commercial level where it ultimately matters.  This approach is implemented through a commercial test herd (CTH). It’s composed of a dedicated flow of commercial animals where progeny of an individual sire are tracked and measured in the commercial system. 
In the past, we used a purebred approach where we would breed a Duroc to a Duroc and measure solely purebred Duroc progeny. From there, we’d measure which ones were the best purebred animals and thus, the best individuals to be put in the boar stud for production of market animals. 

CTN crossbred progeny line
Once a terminal sire is selected from the performance test center, he is used to make commercial market pigs in the commercial test herd prior to making any purebred progeny. 
That way, by the time his purebred sons are finished with testing, they have records from a large number of commercial half-sibs to determine their relative genetic value. It’s the combination of purebred and crossbred data that helps ensure commercial performance is improved through the nucleus selection process.

The CTH approach ensures sires selected to stay in the system are ranked according to what the difference will be in the commercial setting, instead of assuming the differences in the purebred level will show up on the commercial side. Numerous pieces of information from this process directly impact a sire’s influence on the system. The CTH allows comparative results for differences in sire fertility, survival, growth efficiency and plant-value components. Knowledge of these factors enables breeding decisions that truly impact profit drivers in the finishing barn and, ultimately, the meat case.
Think about it this way—you’re in the market for a new car. You don’t buy a Corvette assuming it will work as an all-terrain vehicle. You’re generally not going to buy a vehicle without doing a little research or, at the very least, test-driving it first. 
It’s the same situation with the CTH. Two animals can look and perform exactly the same way in a purebred environment, but the true value to the system is realized when they’re put into a commercial setting. We have the opportunity to better predict the final outcome before boars are put into the genetic line-up for breeding replacement animals. 
Though we’re in the initial stages of using a CTH approach, we already see the value it brings for our system. Advantages to using both the proprietary lines and the CTH are the returns from truly creating the “Maschhoff Pig.” We look forward to seeing both of these areas grow with the company, and are excited about the value we can continue to provide.