Pig breeding programs around the world continue to improve both productivity and robustness by extending selection emphasis to a wider range of traits, say the authors of “Selection for productivity and robustness traits in pigs,” (S. Hermesch, L. Li, A. Doeschl-Wilson and H. Gilbert).
“No trait group can be seen in isolation. Further, genetic improvement itself cannot be viewed in isolation and needs to be accompanied by improvement in management strategies,” they said, siting the following four strategies.
1) Improve on-farm environmental conditions
2) Facilitate extension of breeding objectives to include further traits that describe productivity and robustness
3) Improve the health status of pigs. Information about repeated measures of growth and feed intake, survival of pigs, disease incidence and medication records as well as immune parameters will aid genetic improvement of disease resilience.
4) Select for improved disease resistance to reduce pathogen load on farms, and therefore, improve environmental conditions
Collective progress and value
“The cost of losing a pig in late finishing is very expensive, relative to the cost invested in that pig,” Herring notes. The same is true for elite replacement gilts, or early parity gilts.
“It’s not the salvage value of a replacement female or the cost that went into the replacement female,” he continues. “It’s actually the number of piglets that you’ll not realize in the grow-finish system and that the sow will never produce if she perishes in parity 1. That becomes an extremely large number.”
For example, if a producer has a system that’s operating at 32 PSY, and a female leaves the system a year early, that’s a potential loss of 32 market pigs.
“You see how large the financial impact is when you look at it in those terms. It’s as critical as any trait complex we have in genetic improvement,” Herring adds. “There’s not a single producer who wants to see an animal die or leave the system too soon. We all want to be good stewards of the animals we raise. That’s an aspect that’s difficult to measure but it’s incredibly important, so genetic improvement goes hand-in-hand with good management.”
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