Russia's largest pork producer, ABH Miratorg, is helping to boost its country's thriving pig production industry by working alongside JSR Genetics, utilizing its expert genetics services.

Owned by Viktor and Alexander Linnik, ABH Miratorg has 25 farms across Russia housing around 125,000 sows, as well as its own slaughter facilities and feedstuff production. The business also has three boar studs, which are designed to keep 700 boars at a time, and are independent of the pig farms. These provide the sow farms with semen from the boar line according to the breeding programs.

In 2010, JSR started working with ABH Miratorg to audit their genetic programs. Following a large-scale expansion -- which saw the construction of 12 new automated pig farms -- a restructure of the ABH Miratorg breeding program was needed to provide a more sustainable design, as some aspects of the pig production pyramid were no longer appropriate for the size of the Miratorg production business. This was due to the increased number of farms, subsequent demands for replacement stock and supply from the studs that was needed to drive forward Miratorg's pig production business.

As part of the audit, JSR proposed making some changes to the design of the pyramid, including the installation of a nucleus genetic improvement program, which would also assist with sustainable growth going forward. This was done instead of expanding using suboptimal animals in some areas of the production pyramid, which had supported the growth of the business in previous years.

At the top of ABH Miratorg's genetic production pyramid is now a nucleus for 680 Danish Yorkshire maternal-line sows. The nucleus goal is to supply high-quality purebred Danish Yorkshire gilts to 10 sow farms and purebred Danish Yorkshire boars to sustain the nucleus breeding program.

Dr. Grant Walling, director of science and technology at JSR Genetics, is responsible for the contract with Miratorg.

"Following the findings of the audit we worked closely with the production team at ABH Miratorg to optimize the design of the breeding program. This meant establishing a dedicated nucleus production to deliver genetic progress and a supply of grandparental animals to the other farms," said Walling. 

"JSR advised on the design and overall structure of the nucleus and the source populations and after working with the Miratorg team we now provide software, technical input and advice on the running of a genetic improvement program on the nucleus."

ABH Miratorg sought advice from JSR to improve boar stud operations and semen processing, pig production and installed JSR Select - a custom-designed software management program and database - which solves more than 4.75 million equations per week, to help improve performance and efficiency for its users.

More recently, a team from ABH Miratorg visited JSR's headquarters in East Yorkshire and various farms across the UK, to learn more about genetic programs and the running of a terminal sire line nucleus, as well as meat science and meat-eating quality.

"As we were planning to build a new sire line nucleus, we thought it would be beneficial to pay a visit to JSR to see how they run their sire line nucleus genetic improvement program, as well as taking the opportunity to visit the main boar stud and visit a commercial farm seeing pigs right through to slaughter weights," explained Andrey Pavlov, chief geneticist at ABH Miratorg.

"We found there were opportunities to improve our semen quality assessment, and it was interesting to see products made from premium-class pork, using JSR's Hampshire boars, at their in-house Food Quality Centre."

In 2012, Miratorg sold 281,000 metric tons of live weight and increased its market share to 11.4 percent, making ABH Miratorg the largest pork-producing agroholding in the country. This is a 65 percent increase on 2011's figures, which saw 170,000 metric tons of live weight sold, and a significant rise since 2010, when 138,000 metric tons were sold.

Grant added: "It is so satisfying to see ABH Miratorg leading the way in Russian pork production, and we are delighted that we could offer them guidance, knowledge and skills to enhance their operations."