25 February 2000

Aussies aim for pig profits

By Marianne Curtis

REDUCING production variability, wet feeding, enzymes and antibiotic alternatives are the main focus of research for one large Australian pig producer.

Currently reaping the benefits of a Nipah virus outbreak in Malaysia which has wiped out a third of its pigs, the Australian pig industry is buoyant. But the situation was less rosy two years ago when it suffered record losses.

Speaking at last weeks Alltech conference in Birmingham, nutritionist David Henman of Bunge Meat outlined his companys approach to a volatile market.

"Bunge Meat has 55,000 sows, produces 900,000 carcasses a year, is completely integrated and has a large research and development commitment. Our aim is an 18-month advantage over the competition through grasping new technology."

The company has its own 1000-sow R&D facility, the largest in the world, according to Mr Henman. "Most R&D is aimed at reducing finisher costs, as these account for 30% of total feed cost.

"Liquid feeding has a major influence on saving cost and we are seeing growth rates of up to 900g a day on this system between 30-100kg, an increase of about 4%. We also use phytase and xylanase enzymes, specifically matched to particular diets and these improve growth rates by between 3-5%."

Replacing antibiotic growth promoters is also a long-term aim. "Australian consumers and importers are starting to become concerned about antibiotic use. We are doing extensive research into natural herbs and medicines, which, hopefully, should provide an answer in the future."

As well as nutritional research, reducing variability in pigs born alive to achieve a constant throughput receives research attention. "Feeding organic iron and selenium in sow rations, which costs A$10/t, has increased number of pigs born alive a litter by 0.2."

Mr Henman believes that full integration offers the best solution to keeping ahead. "Having our own abattoir and feed mill gives full control over pork quality. Also our 20-strong technical team of vets and nutritionists are able to work closely together to solve technical problems."

AUSTRALIAN PIG RESEARCH

&#8226 Liquid feeding.

&#8226 Enzymes.

&#8226 Reducing litter variability.

David Henman believes an integrated pig business is the best way to keep ahead of competitors.