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Randy’s Roadshow On Track

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article image Randy Stoecker

Randy Stoecker, former Western Operations President with Murphy Brown (Smithfield), the USA’s largest pork producer with one million sows, shared some valuable insights into the US pork industry and some potentially useful observations about Australia’s, with producers and other industry stakeholders during an APL/Pork CRC Roadshow in November.

Pork CRC CEO, Dr Roger Campbell said the roadshow seminars in Perth, WA, Young, NSW and Nuriootpa, SA, offered producers, in particular, a forum to question Pork CRC research and bring a fresh input to the findings. 

“Randy advocates the uptake of proven science and technology and is therefore well placed to provide some insight into how we might improve our competitiveness here in Australia,” Dr Campbell said.

Global Competition
Mr Stoecker also spent a day with the Pork CRC R&D Committee and thought the overall program was innovative and well targeted at Australia’s constraints, especially in terms of global competitiveness.  

His key messages to Australian producers focused on: our light slaughter weights; segregation of gilts or younger sows and older sows so breeders and progeny could be managed differently; more attention to grain processing and feed milling to extract the benefits of more energy out of grains; evaluation and use of terminal sires to deliver larger improvements in feed efficiency and use of different terminal sires under different commercial situations.

He discussed how the USA and Australian industries differed at the production level, with many of the differences relating to diverse markets.

Marked Range
Dr Campbell said this was certainly the major reason for the marked range in slaughter weights between the two countries and although this was an old message, Australia’s costs would certainly decline if it produced and sold heavier carcases.  

The USA also saw significant differences between genetics, depending on the commercial environment.

Mr Stoecker and Dr Dean Boyd, when he visited in June, also from the USA, showed data on progeny survival from different sire lines under what might be termed clean and more “disease challenged” situations and when pigs were offered the same diets as a mash or pellets.  

For some lines, grower-finisher mortality under what Dr Boyd termed “immune stressed situations” increased from 5%-7% on mash feed to 9-10% on pelleted feed. For other lines, mortality increased to 19%-20% on pellets.

Ground Down
Both are strategies used in the USA, which is moving to even finer grind sizes for corn (from 400 micron down to 300 micron) and pelletising feed to improve feed efficiency and consequently are selecting sire lines to suit the production and feed systems.

Dr Campbell noted that Australia didn’t have the same adverse effects of pelleted feed on pig health or performance, possibly because it had selected its genetics on pelleted feed and didn’t feed corn.  

“We could, however, consider devoting more attention to feed and grain processing, especially for sorghum,” he suggested.  

“The money in pigs is in finishing and Randy concluded by saying that once you have the sow herd under control and you meet budget numbers, the real money is in finishing and we couldn’t agree more with him,” Dr Campbell said.

Mr Stoecker covered various other aspects of the US pork industry, including:  

Housing
Major move to loose housing, with some units introducing free access pens where sows can freely move in and
out of stalls, plus community laying areas.  

Farrowing
Target weaning age is increasing.

Manure
Odour and greenhouse gases still an issue, but producers are using manure as a saleable resource, with values rising.  

Labour
Automation is needed and greater emphasis on farm management upskilling and employing specialists such as engineers, veterinarians, nutritionists and agronomists.  

Niche Marketing
Potential for low carbon footprint pork grown, processed and sold in smaller areas and free range heritage breeds.  

Animal Welfare
Zero tolerance for abuse and need for a modern approach to dialogue between all parties.

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