British pig breeding companies may be fewer in numbers than they used to be, but the quality of stock is better than it has ever been. This is the opinion Stephen J Curtis, executive chairman of ACMC, whose stand at this year’s VIV Asia illustrated the various countries in which his company has commercial agreements.
But what has stood UK pig breeders in good stead in the Asian market? Curtis believes that it is the dedication to commercial traits and, in the case of ACMC, the combination of traditional breed improvement methods along with genome selection – a well balanced combination of the two approaches.
“Some traditional methods are still very relevant, especially when measuring carcass yield, for example,” he notes. “We are big investors in measuring individual feed intake. This is an expensive process, hence why many companies have shied away from it.
“But with feed costs being so high, it is essential now. More expensive feed needs more efficient pigs, feed efficiency is unbelievably important, and we are concentrating on feed efficiency and production of saleable pigs per year.”
He continues that the company has franchise breeding operations in China, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines.
Along with the provision of pigs there is also the supply of services, ie technical support for breeding programs. ACMC’s Gene Evaluation Program sees data fed back from nucleuses in Asia to the UK, so that superior animals can be identified for further breeding. Other UK breeders are also offering support services, helping to build relationships with Asian producers.
Yet can pigs from the mild UK climate perform well in hotter countries?
Yes they can,” says Curtis, continuing that the Asian market will continue to grow and that UK breeding stock produced locally will continue to grow with it.
While health remains a major issue in the region, and foot and mouth disease, hog cholera and PRRS remain endemic in many countries, low wage costs mean that farms can afford higher staff levels than in Europe, for example. This means that each pig gets a greater degree of attention.
Asian incomes are generally rising, and pork, like chicken, is a relatively cheap meat to produce and highly popular.