Vietnamese pig production is rapidly increasing to keep up with a growing population and expanding middle class with a love of pork, which is opening up new opportunities for the global pig industry.

Vietnam’s pig industry is managing to keep pace with the demand. The per capita consumption of pork is expected to increase from 37.8kg a head in 2012 to 48.7kg per head by 2020, according to the Vietnamese Department of Agriculture. The same department also forecasts that pig production will increase from 31.24 million head in 2012 to 34.75 million head in 2020.

Vietnam’s growing appetite for pork
 The region’s appetite for pig meat could increase Vietnam’s world ranking in the pork sector from its current 4th position. It also opens the door to pig equipment manufacturers and breeders from abroad as Vietnamese pig farmers upgrade their systems to meet a growing demand for pig meat.

This was evident at the March 2012 ILDEX trade fair in Ho Chi Minh City, where pig breeders and equipment manufacturers from around the world were hoping to win new customers, in spite of reports that the PRRS virus had infected around 19,000 pigs in six provinces in North Vietnam recently.

European pig breeding companies are hoping to win new business in Vietnam, alongside the Canadian Swine Export Association. The new EU ‘kids on the block’ at ILDEX trade fair included the British Pig Association, ACMC Ltd., and JSR Genetics from England, while Robert Overend from Deerpark Pedigree Pigs was doing his bit for Northern Ireland and Danbred International was also a visible presence there for the first time. All these pig breeding companies were selling a package, usually consisting of F1 females for crossing with sire lines selected for the Vietnamese market, along with GGP and GP lines.

Feed mills investing in farms 
Several big Vietnamese feed companies have invested in integrated pig and poultry operations to provide guaranteed tonnage for their mills. Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF), for example, has several mills in the country, as well as integrated pig farms, with most of its breeding stock shipped in from its multiplier units in Thailand. One of Vietnam’s largest feed millers, Japfa just signed a joint venture with Hypor to produce their pigs in Vietnam.

Observers expect other European breeding companies will be actively searching out feed companies to partner them in joint venture schemes in Vietnam in the near future.

Vietnamese pig breeder
 It all started 30 years ago, when forward-thinking Vietnamese pig farmers travelled abroad visiting foreign pig breeders to buy purebred gilts and boars to start up breeding units in Vietnam,” explained Nguyen Van Than, who owns a 600-sow unit in Dong Nai province.

“I imported purebreds from all over the world, including Large Whites from England, Landrace from the United States, France and Canada, as well as Durocs from the USA,” says Van Than. “I was also the first Vietnamese breeder to import Pietrains from Belgium in 1997.”

Currently, new pig genes are introduced into Vietnam as semen which, in the case of the US, is shipped in frozen and Van Than is keen to import dam lines from Denmark, but says this is proving more difficult than he expected. His pig unit has a staff of 29, including operatives who work on the farm’s feed mill. He operates an all-in and all-out system and vaccinates his pigs against PCV2, Mycoplasma, Foot-and-Mouth disease, Hog Cholera and Aujeszky’s disease. He weans piglets at four weeks.

Large White and Landrace are used as dam lines, with Pietrain and Duroc as sire lines. The boars are individually tested from 30 to 90kg for feed conversion ratios, daily liveweight gain and scanned to measure p2 back fat. In addition, the Pietrain boars are halothane tested. Interestingly, boars that are not selected are given Improvac to help him get a better carcass price and a BLUP program is used for the overall herd breed improvement policy.

Van Than’s boars and gilts are sold all over Vietnam, along with semen from the farm’s AI stud, and he is very proud that his breeding unit was the first to supply pigs to CPF when it first set up pig farms in the country. Unfortunately, his pig farm is surrounded by creeping urban development and like several other units in a similar position, he has to move his operations to another site. However, this will provide him with an opportunity to double the unit’s size to 1,200 sows and upgrade to loose housing for pregnant sows to meet the new animal welfare standards that are being implemented in Vietnam. Moving to the new pig unit, which is 60km from the current site, will cost Van Than around US$ 3 million.

Pig genetics 
Another pig breeding business doing well in Vietnam is Darby CJ Genetics, an offshoot of the Korean-based Darby Genetics. Situated in Binh Duong province about 60km from Ho Chi Ming City since 2004, the company’s nucleus pig unit contains 1,000 GGPs and GP females.

As far as sire line boars are concerned, their growth rate, p2 backfat, conformation and leg strength are included in the selection index, with the pig farm producing 3,300 Large White/Landrace F1 females every year.

The company also owns a second unit, Hanpork, which contains 500 GP females and also produces a 50/50 Large White/Landrace cross. It produces 3,000 F1s annually and these are crossed with Duroc semen to produce 50% Duroc cross slaughter pigs that are sold to a variety of customers in the vicinity of Ho Chi Minh City.

As Vietnam’s pig farms expand, the need for more overseas genetics and high-tech equipment to upgrade systems and boost efficiency are sure to open the country to the international market. This will allow it to provide the increasing amount of quality pig meat products its citizens are already clamoring for and meet new food safety and welfare standards.