Jo-Anne Harper from Rivalea Australia gave conference delegates a look ‘over the fence’ and into the genetic management in the pig breeding industry.
Rivalea is a company with seven owned farms and strategically placed contract farms. They produce 64 million kilograms of pork each year and run 24% of Australia’s pigs. Pork consumption is about 28kg per person, per year in Australia
In highlighting Rivalea’s production system, it was interesting to see that Rivalea manages their female pigs, in much the same way as highlighted by Dr Sophia Edwards, with a pyramid split into nucleus production (or elite females), where all the genetic evaluation occurs with purebred pigs; multiplication production (or multipliers) used for F1 production and selection of cross bred females and commercial production (production females) which produces the slaughter production pigs.
The role of genetics in pig production comes down to the fact that Rivalea is a producer of pork and their profits are driven by its ability to reduce cost of pork production.
‘By focusing on the two areas of improving slaughter progeny performance and improving breeder efficiency we are able to improve our profits.’
In order to improve breeder efficiency, Rivalea look at reproductive traits like number of pigs born alive, average piglet birth weight, sow longevity, survival, teat count, 21 day litter weights and wean to conception interval.
The production traits that are looked at include back fat, average daily gain and e-coli resistance.
To improve slaughter progeny performance, Rivalea looks at the production traits of back fat, average daily gain, feed conversion efficiency and e-coli resistance; carcase traits include meat colour, ph of meat at 24 hours post slaughter and the indirect trait of insulin like growth factor.
Artificial Insemination (AI) plays a big role for Rivalea and is responsible for the genetic improvement across the company.
Rivalea operates an in house genetic evaluation which uses all the data they collect to produce estimates breeding values and one figure ($EBV), used to rank animals (within the same breed) for selection.
When it comes to selection for their breeding program, Rivalea uses a combination of EBVs, physical soundness and inbreeding rules.
And just like Angus breeders are in pursuit of that number 1 bull, ‘We are always in pursuit of the number 1 pig.’