29 September 1995

Accurate production costings will ensure competitive edge

By Harry Hope

UK pig producers have chased high physical output yardsticks at the expense of accurate production costings.

They can learn lessons from their US counterparts who calculate precisely the price of producing a replacement weaner and pigmeat cost/kg deadweight.

The need to identify such costs exactly was stressed by Dr Maurice Bichard, former technical director with the Pig Improvement Company and now based at Reading University.

He was speaking at a workshop on pig profitability, held at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, Glos.

All avenues must be explored in the hunt to reduce costs and stay competitive. Top breeding companies were keen to help, provided they were given clear instructions from producers and the meat trade. Unfortunately, signals from processors and retailers were still weak and an improved dialogue was needed for it took time for breeders to change direction.

"Hybrid breeding started 30 years ago in the UK when it was based on a Large White x Landrace female, put back to a pure-bred slaughter generation boar," said Dr Bichard. "But the cost of producing this type of first-cross hybrid gilt was tied to the lower prolificacy of pure hybrid grandparents.

"The three-line cross female gets over this hurdle and such females are being used increasingly by US commercial producers."

He predicted their increased uptake in the UK, coupled with more hybrid boars.

"Three-line cross females and hybrid boars, based on unrelated lines, will maximise hybrid vigour and deliver increased prolificacy and growth rate, coupled with reduced backfat," said Dr Bichard.

New technology including the use of DNA probes, now based on hair and tail samples, had led to a successful test for the halothane gene, denoting pig susceptibility to stress and the pale, soft, exudative (PSE) condition in pigmeat after slaughter.

The hunt is now on to target other major genes with success claimed in identifying the oestrogen receptor gene which influences litter size. Researchers claim other identified genes include those responsible for E coli resistance, backfat deposition, intramuscular fat level, lean tissue growth rate and decreased yield in cured hams.

In the future Dr Bichard considered that marker gene technology will probably be used to augment existing selection methods, not as a total replacement. &#42

Dr Maurice Bichard:

"Three-line cross females and hybrid boars will deliver increased prolificacy and growth rate."