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Pork CRC’s Views on Ways to Improve Feed Efficiency

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Dr Roger Campbell, Pork CRC CEO has written in Pork CRC’s newsletter. His views are as follows:

North American nutritionist, Dr Dean Boyd of the Hanor Group of Companies (controls 100,000+ sows), told PPPE in Queensland that US pork producers are in much the same boat as Australian producers in terms of pressures caused by feed prices.

Indeed, except for the fact that the USA now exports the equivalent of 22 million carcasses (22% of production), the industry would be in melt-down. 

CRC objectives

Pork CRC’s objectives include encouraging availability of better grain and developing pigs/systems that need less and less grain/ energy to produce high quality pork products. 

The focus on the latter clearly must be further emphasised and it should be explored how to minimise feed usage.

Dr Dean Boyd said that Hanor Group of Companies were investigating every avenue to improve feed efficiency including grinding corn to a particle size of only 450 micron and using pelleted feeds to deliver this fine grind to hopefully prevent ulcers, which are common in the USA and often sire-line related. 

Little attention is paid to grind size, probably because it is less important for wheat than corn. On the other hand, how efficiently energy from sorghum is used is related to grind size and Pork CRC have projects investigating how processing affects the efficiency and cost effectiveness with which grains/feeds can be utilised.

Hanor Group of Companies are also extending the use of Paylean for one week to ensure the first pigs sold from their systems are exposed to the technology and the effects on feed efficiency are maximised for all pigs in the system. 

The first thing is to know what the feed efficiency of the progeny is. If it is targeted 2.5 or more importantly 33-34 MJ DE/kg between 20 and 100kg and achieve a somewhat higher figure, it might be worth discussing the boars used with the AI centre.

All factors must be considered when developing sire line indices and choosing the most appropriate boars to use commercially. 

However, the marked increase in feed costs in the last 12-18 months and the likelihood they will remain high, demands indices and individual sires are revisited and that producers are getting the best available genetics during a difficult business environment.

Sire Signals

Another action Dr Dean Boyd emphasised for Hanor Group of Companies was the re-ranking of all terminal line sires in the stud based on feed efficiency and their selection, use and culling based on this. 

While Dr Roger Campbell is not sure how boars are ranked in Australian studs or how much emphasis is placed in the selection indices for feed efficiency, he wonders how well the available terminal sires are used to improve individual traits such as feed efficiency.

While possible with Pig Blup to use a buyer’s own index, which reranks boars on an index for a particular customer, he wonders how many actually use this.

Genetic Merit 

Dr Roger Campbell believes a quantum leap is needed to reduce the number of terminal sires used. The average genetic merit of the terminal sires currently available is limited by the number needed because of the relative inefficiency of AI and this is further reduced where natural matings are still used. 

It should be possible, through research, to reduce the number of semen doses per mating and the number of sperm required per dose, to reduce the boars servicing the Australian industry by at least 30%, but more likely by 50%. 

According to Dr Roger Campbell, this is an area where the world seems happy having reduced boar numbers dramatically by moving from natural mating to AI and enjoying the labour savings and genetic gains this has provided. 

He adds that complacency must be avoided, as little progress has been made in AI technology in the last 7-10 years. There is, however, an opportunity for Australia to grab a global competitive advantage and experts should note and think about where Australia goes next.

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