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Variety the spice in pig genetics recipe

Selective livestock breeding has resulted in many benefits including increased profitability and productive performance, with faster growth rates, heavier carcass weights and improved milk yields.

However, such artificial selection pressures can unwittingly induce undesirable outcomes. For example, drench resistance leads to poorer health and slower growth rates, with corresponding higher feed costs; pesticide resistance supports increased disease-carrying flies; and overzealous use of disinfectant favours superbugs.

Research has identified that consequent upon human selective breeding, the European pig population has less genetic variability than its Asian counterparts. Various heritagebreed populations provide an invaluable reservoir of slightly different genetic material. This aids biodiversity and adaptability for resisting disease and surviving harsher environmental
conditions. For example, the Tamworth’s physique enabled efficient foraging in oak and beech forests and walking considerable distances for food, while longevity rested on good mothering and vigorous piglet survivability. Their ginger coat provides them sunburn protection and better climate adaptability compared with paler or black-skinned breeds.

The major influences on growth are nutrition and genetics, followed by health, housing and the environment. With a feed conversion efficiency of 2.1, young growing housed pigs in optimal conditions efficiently convert feed into meat, but this drops away as their growth rates slow. Access to fresh, clean drinking water 24/7 is a must for pigs to grow efficiently and produce good quality meat.

Pigs are social animals, so keeping at least two together helps provide them with company and warmth. Provision of adequate dry, warm bedding and draught-free housing with enough space
for lying is essential, as outlined in MPI’s Code of Welfare for Pigs 2018. It is estimated that pigs housed outdoors require 15 percent more dietary energy compared with those housed indoors. Keeping pigs on smaller blocks also has potential for lower greenhouse gas emissions compared with some other livestock species.

Because feed scraps and pasture are of variable quality and do not contain essential amino acids like lysine, they cannot provide a balanced diet that supports efficient and rapid growth rates. A good option for a smaller-sized operation is feeding NRM Little Pig Tucker Pellets through until 15-17 weeks of age and then NRM Big Pig Nuts until slaughter. These diets provide sufficient energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for disease prevention.

Food normally accounts for over 50 percent of pig-farming costs, making feed-use efficiency an important indicator of farm productivity and profitability. It can be very rewarding to know what you have fed your pigs and that you have blanketed them with good care while satisfying their wellbeing during growth prior to their providing you with meat for your family.

LIVEWEIGHT GAIN TARGETS
• Weaning to 15kg – 450g/day
• 15-40kg – 600g/day
• 40-70kg – 850g/day
• 70kg to slaughter (about 115kg)
– more than 1kg/day
These targets are subject to variables owing to feeding system, nutrition, environment, health and genetics. Different pig breeds perform differently at different weights, but these weights are a good guide.

For further information, contact your Farmlands Technical Field Officer or the friendly team at your local Farmlands store.

Article supplied by Tiffany Menzies, Farmlands Technical Product Manager