Low mortality focus keeps Duroc top Danish sire

The mainstay sire in Danish pig production – the Duroc boar – has had its credentials confirmed after being put head-to-head with the Pietrain breed by leading Danish researchers.

Litters by Duroc boars out of Landrace-cross Yorkshire Large White sows are 0.2 piglets bigger at weaning (21 days), despite having smaller liveborn litters than the Pietrain, according to an 18-month study started in 2014.

This allayed fears that growing interest in the Pietrain breed, which has larger litter sizes and leaner meat content, should prompt a review of Danish breeding strategy.

German Pietrain interest 

  • Germany is biggest buyer of Danish piglets
  • About 12 million pigs exported to Germany and Poland each year from Denmark
  • Genomics show Duroc has 0.25 pigs/litter weaned
  • Pietrain semen recently at a premium in Germany

The 60,000-sow trial by Denmark’s Agriculture and Pig Research Centre (Seges) reassured Danish breeders that Duroc genetics are best suited to meeting the industry target of getting farm piglet mortality below 20% by 2020.

Seges geneticist Bjarne Nielsen stresses that, while Germans pay more for Pietrain boars, Danish farmers are wise to spend on Duroc inseminations.

“This is because of better survivability, despite lower initial litter size, which meant Duroc-sired sows had 0.2 more piglets reared at 21 days,” Mr Nielsen told the Herning Congress.

At 21 days, Durocs had weaned 14.7 piglets, while Pietrains had weaned 14.5.

“We confirmed that the Pietrain increases litter size but a Duroc has a lower piglet mortality,” said Mr Nielsen, adding that finishers see higher weight gains (+100g/day) from Duroc progeny compared to Pietrain finishers.

“In addition to the benefits seen by the finisher, which vary from about 80-120g/day weight gain, the Danish sow herd’s biggest priority is reducing mortality and increasing litter size.”

In figures: Duroc v Pietrain




Total number born



Litter size day five



Litter size at day 21