Pig producers could benefit from improvements in farrowing rates worth up to £40m thanks to the launch of the country’s first genetic research centre.
Breeding company PIC UK hopes to help commercial pig production throughout the UK by improving success rates of artificial insemination.
It has opened its own gene transfer centre of excellence so it can carry out research into the commercial requirements of farmers and the factors which can reduce boar semen quality.
The centre, which is housed at PIC’s GT Orderline operation at Sharnbrook in Bedfordshire, will use the latest technology worth £140,000 to test sperm and find ways to improve fertilisation.
Sue Corning, PIC general manager, said the improvements made by the centre could help add significant sums to pig producers’ bottom lines.
“AI is used by about three-quarters of UK pig producers and the top 10% are achieving a 93-93% farrowing rate,” she said at the launch of the centre in Bedford last week.
“But the average farrowing rate is about 80% and that difference is worth about £100 a sow.
“When you factor across the entire UK pig herd that’s worth £40m. There are huge sums available if we can make these improvements.”
Ms Corning said the unique conditions UK pig producers operated in meant the industry had not benefited as much as other European producers from developments in research into AI.
“While in countries like Denmark studs are close to pig units, in the UK our studs are not near our customers in order to maintain biosecurity. That brings challenges in terms of semen transfer and the amount of time it is in transportation.
“Also 40% of our herd is outdoors and there is more of a challenge with outdoor production when using AI. The semen is exposed to a wide range of environmental conditions, such as changes in temperature.
“These unique characteristics are great from a marketing perspective, but there has been limited research and development that takes them into account.”
Ms Corning said the centre would work with everyone in the supply chain to identify the types of research which would benefit producers and disseminate the information to the industry quickly.
“We want to bring producers closer to semen production so we can understand how to manage it and work together to improve it,” she added.
“We are looking for feedback from customers because the industry has a good future and we can help it be more competitive.”