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Health aspect now an essential genetic ingredient                                                                                                                                                                          by Dr Danie Visser Genetic stagnation is a typical South African challenge due to interruptions in regular animal and semen imports.  What are you doing to combat this effect? The health aspect of pig breeding and its implications further down the genetic and production chain have become an essential genetic ingredient in recent times and will continue to do so in future.  Access to international gene pools will advance genetic improvement due to larger gene pools and sophistication in genetic technology, research and development, marker assistance selection and genomics.  The secret being that the effective gene pool in South Africa should be large enough to exploit the favorable variation and thereby sustain genetic improvement. I think this is indeed the case. Alliance Genetics South Africa is fortunate that we have access to a relative large gene pool and the exchange of high ranking breeding boars through the AI program of the members.  The combined gene pool of Alliance Genetics South Africa and Alliance Genetics Canada is in access of 10 000 pure bred animals. A recent study by Kruger (2015), where the genetic analysis of the performance of 87 121 progeny that were born and performance tested from 3 152 AI boars from local and imported sires were compared over a period of 14 years (2000 -2014), have indicated limited superiority of the imported semen. Hence, it is very important to use the right methods to identify those very top performing AI boars.  Do South African breeders keep track of international trends in pig production? The South African pig industry is indeed a microcosm of almost all the elements of pig production and pig breeding that are found in many different continents across the world. The very first (foremost) building block in successful pig breeding is the integrity of your on farm and central database. We put a high premium on the accuracy and integrity of our databases, since. We are  evaluating and incorporating new traits in our genetic evaluations, will have more regular genetic evaluations in future, include accuracies to all out EBV’s, refine the quality control and effectiveness of AI - from the tapping of the boar to the insemination on the floor. With genomics being the future driver in animal breeding this will be our focus in the next few years. What factors are going to take pig breeding to the next level in future? The poultry industry is a very successful, mechanized and effective industry.  The future of the pig industry will indirectly be benchmarked against the efficiency of protein production in that industry. To really enable the animal to perform optimally, it is vital that the genetic potential (to be driven by AI and genomics), bio-security & health, precision animal nutrition, modern, technology driven housing, stockman ship, welfare, productivity and motivated teamwork are all in synchronization with each other. On the genetic front per se further improvements of AI including a biological supply and cold chain philosophy with impeccable accuracy in all aspects.  Continuous research and development especially on pig reproduction and growth modeling linked with bio technology and genomics. Is on-farm testing enough to ensure genetic progress? On-farm testing as in the past, will still form part of the baseline performance testing for genetic evaluations.  The challenge being that the on farm data base and central data base be in synchronization, fully updated and operational and making provision for incorporating new traits.  Incorporating also the reproduction, production and carcass data from commercial producers. The on farm performance must continuously complimented by value adding research in the fields of reproduction, piglet survival, piglet uniformity, maternal and paternal breeding values, body composition and lean tissue growth rate. Exchange of knowledge between countries, researchers, pig breeders is essential and be conducted by breeders, geneticists and researchers. Successful pork production is determined by five fundamental corner stones:  genetics, nutrition, environment, health and management.  What is the role of genetics? In practical terms there is not an extra-ordinary difference in the daily amount of feed and water consumption of an average or below average animal in comparison to an above average or outstanding animal.  Wees gewaarsku: “ Dis die klein jakkalsies wat die wingerd verniel ”  The secret being that for every generation, the future generation be selected on genetically meritorious methods (large numbers and high selection intensities) to ensure that the herd average is continuously moving in the right direction. The above or below average concept will always be the barometer for genetic improvement.  These animals must always be correctly identified, evaluated, utilized and monitored. What breeding goals do you consider as the most important in your breeding programme?  How do you achieve and calculate progress? The ultimate breeding objective is to improve profitability. To embrace the concept of quality (a consumer demand principle) all levels in the production chain (at the genetic level through the breeding objectives, at the farm level through the entire production system, in transit and at the slaughterhouse and processing levels) should be integrated. So the three most important objectives are: aggregate reproduction efficiency, total herd protein efficiency ratios and consistent consumer satisfaction. The genetic progress is meticulously monitored by the herd profiles of individual and national herds, taking into consideration aspects such as: The genetic audit Identification of trait leaders Inbreeding levels Accuracies of EBV’s Selection differentials Selection intensities Phenotypic and genotypic trends of the economically important traits Excerpt:  Porcus December 2016