Traditionally feed is estimated to be biggest part in the cost of producing a market pig. So feed has a lot to do with profitability – less feed used means less cost. To be successful a breeding stock company has to have pigs that are competitive in this area. How is this done?
First, data on the individual pig’s growth and feed consumption is required. This data allows the calculation of feed conversion, which is the ratio of feed consumed on weight gained, usually shown as f:g. Collecting weights is comparitively simple since it only requires that the pig be weighed at the beginning and end of the test period. Capturing the amount of feed consumed is much more complicated.
A blend of modern electronics and computer science allows feed consumption on a large number of pigs to be measured. Sensors on the feeder and an electronic tag in each pig’s ear combined with a scale in the feeder itself record each vist a pig makes to the feeder along with the amount of feed that is consumed. Summing each day’s consumption for the test period gives the amount of feed the pig consumed. This technology, combined with proper data scrubbing, are the first parts of the process. Geneticists combine this data with measurements of other important traits into a selection index, which is used to evaluate the animals and make decisions on which should be kept to be parents of the next generation, rusulting in continuous improvement each generation.
An important part of the feed information is that it be gathered in a setting as close to commercial conditions as possible. The equipment used by Choice allows animals to be grown out in large pens where typical social interactions take place between individuals, allowing a much better evaluation of genetic merit than when animals had to be fed in individual stalls.
The indexes are carefully designed to maximize the overall performance of the line based on it’s role in the breeding pyramid. Selecting only on feed efficiency results in pigs with low appetites and slow growth, while selecting only on growth results in pigs with poorer feed efficiency. With input from clients and sales, Choice geneticists carefull create a specific index for each line. Feed consumption and growth are recorded for animals in all lines and the index for each includes these two traits.
Choice has invested in equipment to electronically collect feed intake in Europe and North and South America as part of it’s ongoing investment in research to provide our clients with the best swine breeding stock possible.