The Danish pig industry has made the fundamental decision to put the rearing ability of sows as its ‘number one’ breeding priority.

This was a point expanded upon by Soren Bossen, the chief executive of Avlscenter Ronshauge. The company is one of the breeding centres that now makes up Danish Genetics.

Bossen recently visited Ireland, speaking at three producer meetings hosted by Glenmarshal Sires.

He further explained: “The need to increase the number of pigs that a sow can produce per litter is no longer relevant.

“If one assumes that a litter size in the region of 16 to 18 piglets is sufficient, the question then becomes: Is the sow capable of rearing all these piglets through to uniform weaning weights?

“Our breeding work is now showing that it is possible to identify maternal lines within the Large White and Yorkshire breeds with this capability,” he added.

“Piglet survivability to day 21 is the yard stick now used in Denmark to determine the suitability of a sow for breeding.”

Breeding assessment in Danish pig industry

Genomics is also used as a core breeding assessment tool within the Danish pig industry.

“But it must be used in tandem with actual performance trials,” Bossen stressed.

Duroc is the main terminal sire breed used within the Danish pig industry.

Bossen explained that simply measuring feed efficiency i.e., the daily growth rate achieved from a specific diet, is no longer the base line used in Denmark when assessing individual boars.

“People do not consume bone or tendons; they eat the actual flesh produced by the pig,” he said.

“This is why our feed trials now assess boars on the ability of their progeny to produce lean meat on a daily basis. This information is gathered courtesy of a CT scanning process.

“It is the true measure of feed efficiency,” he added.

Pig exports

According to Bossen, Danish pig bloodlines are now being exported to 47 countries around the world.

“We are taking a balanced approach to breeding, with the overall objective of producing pigs that can deliver improved levels of sustainability for all our customers,” he said.

“Breeding pigs that are stronger and more robust is critically important in this context.

“We continue to invest in technologies that will allow us to secure higher levels of genetic gain within our pig populations.

“Improving meat quality is a key priority of our breeding programmes at the present time,” he concluded.