Efficient feed conversion is the most important economic trait in pig production, according to geneticist Ed Sutcliffe, who spoke at a recent Northamptonshire Quality Pig Producers’ Association meeting.
Producers record numbers born and have a reasonable idea of growth rate, while backfat is measured for them when finished pigs are slaughtered, said Sutcliffe, but none of these is as important as feed conversion rate. Pointing out the relative importance of these factors, Sutcliffe, who is technical director of the pig-breeding company ACMC, demonstrated that an improvement of one standard deviation in feed conversion (equivalent to about 0.4 FCR points) could be worth as much as £18.52 per pig, assuming daily feed intake remained the same.
In comparison, one standard deviation in grading was worth £1.51; in daily gain, £9.46; and in numbers born alive, £5.91 per pig.
Sutcliffe said that getting accurate feed conversion figures can be difficult to do, particularly for swine producers with automatically fed pigs in continuous-flow, intensive buildings. “Everyone makes a conscious decision when to market pigs — generally as heavy as possible — but do they know how the FCR of their pigs differ through the growth curve?” said Sutcliffe. “A little effort is required, but measuring some pigs later in the growth curve would allow this to be considered and could surprise those pig producers not using feed efficient genetics about the lack of return at heavier weights."