Global pig production falls short of genetic potential

Pigs fall well short of their genetic potential in today’s production system – costing the industry millions of dollars in lost performance, according to a swine nutrition expert.

The senior manager of swine research at Novus International, Dr Jeffery Escobar, told a group of European producers visiting the company’s headquarters at St Louis, USA, that despite various improvements in production efficiency, the industry did not capitalise on the full genetic potential of animals.

“There remains a vast gap between swine performance on a conventional farm and performance in a facility that is more aseptic and perhaps targeted towards research,” He said. “That clearly indicates that we are way below the ceiling for the genetic potential for performance of animals.”

“If animals are removed from conventional farm facilities and placed into ultra clean facility, optimised for air quality, water purity, feed mix, environment, manure management and disinfection, then performance can significantly improve.

“What the gap illustrates is that there is progress we can make to achieve better performance by improving nutrition, management, environment and all other aspects that contribute to express or repress the genetic potential of animals.”

While Dr Escobar said that growing animals in such clean environment on a full production site may be unrealistic, producers can get closer to that goal of reaching the animals’ full genetic potential. One way to improve that performance was to optimise animal feed, to ensure individual animals were receiving the ideal amount of nutrients.

“A key area for improvement is mineral consumption,” he said. “Minerals are very important for healthy development, but used incorrectly, or without proper care, they can be almost totally ineffective. Minerals have antagonistic properties – meaning feeding too much of one can cancel the intended effects of another.”

Dr Escobar said that by using chelated trace minerals – where the mineral (such as zinc or copper) was bonded to another molecule such as methionine hydroxyl analogue – such antagonisms were avoided and more of the mineral’s benefits could be realised.

“Chelated trace minerals can help to improve structural health in bones, joints, and tendons, aid fertility and reproduction, and enhance growth in terms of feed efficiency,” he explained.

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