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Balanced breeding is working

Balanced breeding

August 3, 2017

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Blog by Hans Olijslagers, Chief Technology Officer Topigs Norsvin

The Topigs Norsvin Breeding Program is famous because of its balanced approach. Not 100% economics but the right balance between cost price, animal welfare, and work pleasure for the staff in the barns.

Every  piglet born extra should be weaned at the sow. No artificial or foster sows. That is the credo of our reproduction breeding goal: Not the maximum number of piglets born alive, but the optimum between litter size, quality of the piglets, and low mortality. We therefore weigh 750,000 piglets per year at day of birth in our nucleus farms, to breed for vigorous piglets and excellent mothers.

It is great to see that this balanced breeding approach is working. The annual “Ingris” data 2016 from Norway show this. In 2012, Norway was the first country that introduced the new TN70 sow. Norsvin is the only pig breeding company in Norway, so Norwegian data are 100% Topigs Norsvin genetics data.

Norway shows that our balanced breeding approach is working: The annual “Ingris” data confirm this. It is good to see the number of live-born piglets per litter increase by 4% in 5 years. In the same period, we see the number of still-born piglet decrease by 8% and the numbers weaned per litter increase by 6%.

The percentage of live-born piglets weaned increased from 85% in 2012 to 87% in 2016. Mortality of piglets before weaning decreased from 15.1% in 2012 to 12.7% in 2016. A decrease of 19%!! The TN70 shows the potential of bringing together the best genes from two worlds: Topigs and Norsvin.

It is remarkable that the results in Norway follow our genetic trends. I plotted both in graphs. Why does Norway show the same results in the field as those projected in the Topigs Norsvin breeding goal?

I think the reason is the following: Norway has legislation that does not allow more than 120 sows per farm. On such a farm the owner works together with a part-time employee. This has been the situation for decades and it contrasts strongly with other European, American, and Asian markets. In a rat race for a low cost price, employees have to take care of more and more sows. So every year less time is available for monitoring the farrowing houses and nurseries. Those are not the right circumstances for showing genetic potential of our TN70 sows.

I am happy that Norway shows me that our Balanced Breeding approach is working in a sustainable manner.