The international pig breeding and genetics company, ACMC Ltd. is celebrating its 10th anniversary and Pig International asked its Managing Director, Matthew Curtis for his predictions on how the market is developing over the next decade and what pig producers should watch for.
Exploiting the potential offered by the prolific Chinese Meishan by successfully incorporating its genes into its breeding program, the company has already succeeded in establishing thriving pig breeding centers in eight different countries across the globe and it exports products to many others.
“Without a doubt, productivity will be the major factor sought by developed and developing markets in the future,” said Curtis.
Breeding more efficient pigs
However, future increased productivity is linked to efficiency, which means pig producers need pigs with the inbuilt ability to convert feed even more efficiently and grow faster at the same time, explained Curtis.
“There are two main reasons for this: First, for the pig farmer, feed prices are likely to continue to rise due to greater demand. Secondly, environmental pressures will limit the availability of resources that we now take for granted including, water as well as feed – and we could soon see some finishing pigs of 130 kg converting at less than 2.0:1 and growing at over 1,200 g per day, with an average probably less than 2.2,” he said.
Of course, productivity is linked inextricably to the sow and Curtis said he believes that 30 pigs reared per sow annually will become the average. However, he issues a word of caution. “Sows currently can produce considerably more pigs than this, but their ability to rear them will become the key factor.”
There has been too much emphasis on increasing piglets born alive and not enough on keeping them alive in the past, he said. “It’s not good enough to have to wean at between four and five days to try to keep pigs alive and increase numbers reared – that is the sow’s job.”
Open sow housing
There also could be some big changes in the way pigs are kept in future; following the partial ban on sow stalls in the EU and recent signals from large multinational food companies like McDonald’s which Curtis sees as markers for group housing, certainly in mature markets such as Europe and the United States.
“Keeping pigs in certain systems will become totally unacceptable, but intensive production is likely to remain the standard in rapidly-developing areas such as Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and China. So it will be the breeding companies’ job to supply stock that is docile and adaptable to differing systems around the world as well as being productive,” he said. Curtis also said that pig-breeding companies will need to place more emphasis on backup for their customers. This will take the form of closer links via the Internet and training of technical managers and staff.
“Whatever the global location and feedstuffs available, nutrition will have to be linked to the genetic potential of the pigs. With the greater use of byproducts, – whether from crops used for energy production, industrial use or human food processing – the challenge for the nutritionist will be to tailor pig diets to ensure optimum performance, said Curtis. “Records will play a key role here and the computer links will form a vital part of this.”
Although health is always a limiting factor in pig production, Curtis predicts little future in selecting for disease resistance. “That could be dangerous,” he warns. “Viruses mutate with ease and years of selection for a particular resistance trait could be quickly invalidated.”
Vaccines, he suggests, will continue to be a better route. In addition, he believes one of the greatest health-enhancing factors is still heterocyst – simple hybrid vigor from both parents. “This is inbuilt and, by-and-large, the greater the heterosis, the healthier the pigs will remain."
That is not to say biosecurity will lose its importance. The high health status of breeding pigs will be intrinsic to their success. However, less risky and more cost-effective alternatives to flying pigs around the globe will be developed. This could include embryo transfer, in addition to semen. “This will enable nucleus pig units serving different countries, or even continents, to produce their own nucleus and grandparent stock remotely with genetic guidance from the breeding company’s headquarters, with occasional genetic top-ups without the introduction of live pigs. But good veterinary advice will always remain an essential factor.”
Producing quality pork
When asked about his views on the different requirements regarding meat quality according to various cultural perceptions across the globe, Curtis commented that the differences around the world were actually quite small in real terms.
“People want lean meat at an affordable price. Fat needs three times as much energy input as lean and while there may be requirements for say, marbling or darker meat, these can be catered for using different terminal sires and this is unlikely to change to any great extent,” he explained. “Tenderness and succulence will be of great importance whatever the market and this is more like to be provided from a pig at 120 days than one of 220 days old when slaughtered.
“Globally, expansion in pig production is likely to take place, not surprisingly, in countries where there is population and GDP growth. South America will see growth in pig meat for both domestic consumption and for export. China and Southeast Asia are likely to see continued expansion, mainly to satisfy the needs of its own population, but the continent to watch will be Africa,” he predicted.
“There is huge potential in Africa – it is a country with many fertile areas, great resources and a need for more protein.” Curtis foresees China being involved in that growth, too, because it had limited resources in relation to its enormous population and it would not want to rely too heavily on imports to meet its growing demand for pig meat. “I think we will see large satellite units being established in Africa to meet this demand,” he predicted.