Replacement reappraisal

20 March 2015

Reviewing herd replacement polices could benefit productivity

To maximise output pig production business should aim to harness every available piece of genetic potential. And from a breeding herd perspective it’s important to maintain genetic improvement and progress the capability of the genotypes used.


Reappraising a replacement gilt policy could help some herds improve their genetic potential.

Ideally, commercial producers should be in a position to take advantage of the incremental advances pig breeding companies, like us, make year-on-year to improve productivity. The benefits should be seen in areas such as prolificacy, growth rates, FCR and meat quality/carcase value.

How a herd renews its breeding stock has a marked influence on genetic progress, so replacement policies are worth reviewing from time to time – particularly in a market environment that is demanding greater efficiency and increased productivity.

Purchasing F1 parent gilts from a genetics company enables commercial herds to keep pace of genetic advances. In-house replacement policies cannot replicate the speed of genetic progress offered from buying-in replacements, and the benefits can be significant and financially valuable if the breeding programme is carefully managed. Using Rattlerow’s Genmatch service can enable producers to establish the best selection criteria for their individual replacement programme. A number of our customers who breed their own gilts consistently achieve top 10% performance and more.

Factor in

“Many factors encourage producers to breed their own female replacements, the main ones being herd health protection and cost reduction. These are valid reasons, but other factors do warrant consideration,” says Simon Guise, UK Sales Manager with Rattlerow Farms.

Does a herd’s replacement policy capitalise on the year-on-year advances made at nucleus level in key traits such as prolificacy?

If in-house breeding strategies are not managed correctly, they can stall genetic progress, which in the long term can reduce performance potential.

But is buying in better? There is always some disease risk associated with ‘live animal imports’ into a unit, but in most cases it is manageable. By purchasing F1 gilts the genetic make up of the herd is consistent, and if the terminal sire used across all matings is the same genotype, then the slaughter progeny is a standard genotype too, which can have advantages.


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Abridged from editorials featured in Pig World, March 2015 and Pig & Poultry Marketing’s early Spring (2015) edition.