ABOVE: DanBred implemented new breeding goals in July 2022, which saw the previous ‘live piglets at day five’ LP5 goal split into three data points, termed ‘piglet survivability’.
In last month’s APN edition, the article ‘New breeding goals to reduce piglet mortality’ from Aarhus University was published.
As the article was written in 2021, I would like to update readers on what is happening in that space within the Danish Agriculture and Food Council DanBred’s breeding program, as the new breeding goals that were implemented last year have seen improvements beyond what was predicted in commercial herds already.
First, a quick recap of the Danish pig breeding system.
Until 2017, all breeders and multipliers were together in the one breeding program known as DanAvl – DanBred outside of Denmark.
This breeding program was managed by SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre – itself the research division of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council.
However, in 2017 DanBred P/S – as it is known today – was formed as its own commercial entity, with the majority owners being the Danish Agriculture and Food Council.
The breeders who did not wish to be a part of the new company formed their own – Danish Genetics.
Today, DanBred’s breeding program is powered by the same scientists as before 2017, and is managed by the Danish Agriculture and Food Council together with the original stud book formation heritage in Denmark from more than 120 years ago.
Danish Genetics, on the other hand, must outsource their breeding program work to the Roslin Institute in Scotland.
To make matters more confusing, SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre split from the Danish Agriculture and Food Council in January of 2022 and are now known as SEGES Innovation.
Back to the current breeding goals of Danish Agriculture and Food Council DanBred.
What is important to know about the DanBred breeding program is that it is based on the economic weighting of each production trait, with the end goal of producing 1kg of pork the cheapest way possible.
These economic weights are reviewed regularly and also when there is a significant change in the market – such as the war between Ukraine and Russia, which had significant effects on grain prices.
In July 2022, the new breeding goals were implemented in the DanBred breeding program which saw the previous ‘live piglets at day five’ – LP5 – goal split into three data points, now termed ‘piglet survivability’.
This goal has three factors:
- The piglets own genetic potential to survive – sow and boar influence
- The sow’s genetic potential to ensure her piglets survive – sow influence
- Litter size measured as the total number of piglets born – sow and boar influence.
Instead of only the number of piglets alive at day five, it is now a combination of the above three traits that make up the piglet survivability trait.
The prediction was that piglet survivability would increase by 1 percent per year in commercial herds.
This has been seen within the first six months already, due mostly to the quick turnaround in terminal sire boars being used at artificial insemination stations – that is, the complete replacement of DanBred Duroc boars to reflect the new index.
As more of the females are replaced throughout the herds, it is expected to see even better results in productivity.
A focus on piglet survivability was the main change implemented in the breeding goals, coupled with an even higher pressure on feed conversion efficiency – largely driven by the increase in grain prices, given it is the highest cost of production.
LG5 was a good breeding goal for its’ time – after implementation in 2000, there was an increase both in piglets born alive and survivability – but as knowledge and the ability of breeding programs progress, so must the breeding goals.
DanBred now has the ability to combine three factors into the one breeding goal, giving a more accurate selection possibility and better outcome for producers.
It is not expected that we will see litter numbers continue to increase but rather stabilise.
It can also be seen in the more recent economic weightings that it is more profitable to wean more piglets than having an extra born alive.
The sow after all is a biological being with only so much space for piglets and, while there are many management and environmental factors that contribute to a successful production, it is exciting to see that there is a focus on robustness and survival being considered in a breeding program, which will benefit who we are all working for – the producer.