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THE DIASPORA OF PIG BREEDING:  A BRIEF SYNOPSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                      Dr Danie Visser (13/01/2009)   INTRODUCTION   Paleontological records revealed that domesticated pigs, within the African context, existed in the Nile Valley as long as the last few centuries of the fifth millennium B.C. According to evidence, the domestication of swine occurred earlier in China that Europe.  Since breed societies are (had been) virtually non-existent in China, records of breed formation and breed standards are quite vague.  According to Thornton (1988) the domestic pig probably did not undergo major changes in it’s evolution until the 18th century. The latter coincided with Industrial Revolution, the accompanying enclosure of land and the first major expansion in the human population and the beginning of meticulous stud breeding.   SOUTH AFRICA   The origin – and initial catalyst of the South African pig industry can be traced back to 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck brought some pigs with him to the Cape of Good Hope.  It was however a letter from the Lords Seventeen to Commander Jan van Riebeeck, the so called “magic wand” that changed the pigs’ fortunes so dramatically.  They demanded fresh pork when they called at the Cape!!!    This humble beginning of the early South African pig industry at the Cape of Good Hope, has developed into a massive industry with some 350 commercial producers, in possession of 103 000 sows and approximately 2,1 million pigs that are slaughtered per annum.  The pork industry has evolved into a spatial and economic important industry with a gross producer value of ± R2 billion and gross consumer value of over R4 billion.   The South African Pig Breeders’ Society was established in 1919 and became affiliated to the South African Stud Book Association (SASBA, which was established in 1905).  It is heartening to note that when the first volume of SASBA appeared in 1906, pig breeders were amongst the first group of breeders to register their animals in this volume! (Hofmeyr, 2006)   The launching and official implementation of the National Pig Testing Scheme of South Africa on the 1st of April1956 is unmistakeably hailed as one of the most pivotal and far reaching events in the history of pig breeding / improvement on the African continent.  It is estimated that almost 90 percent of the effective gene pool in the national nucleus stud herds was performance tested and recorded through the National Pig Performance and Progeny Testing Scheme and through on-farm testing in 1990! THE FUTURE OF PIG BREEDING   Pig breeding is not a constant and never will be.  It is changing as changes in the (global) market and the consumer occur and the latest authentic research is released into the public domain.  Carcass quality and meat quality have become increasingly important in modern day pig production.  Important changes in consumer patterns have contributed to this phenomenon.  These changes to mention a few, are:   i) the pursuit for quality and value is stronger than before   ii) the inherent convenience factor associated with modern consumers   iii) products with desired quality attributes must be conducive to better health and safety    iv) consumers want to know the origin and production process of the products they buy    v) compliance with sound animal welfare standards   The inclusion of meat quality traits (pHᵤ, water holding capacity, tenderness and intra-muscular fat) in future breeding programmes along with stringent bio-security and health protocols within the regulatory aspects of the National Water Act (Act No 36 of 1998) and the National Environmental Management Act (ACT No 107 of 1998) call for a paradigm shift in terms of pig breeding for the future.  The rising trend of Artificial Insemination in the South African pig industry is likely to increase substantially in future.   IN SUMMARY   The breeding company or stud breeder of the future must enable/empower his clients (commercial producers) to produce pork of exceptional quality (No odours, No taint, No residues, No consequences).  To stay in business, the pig producer of the future, must produce pork (pig meat) cost effectively through stringent bio-security protocols, effective quality controls and appropriate feedback procedures to guarantee the highest standards of food safety and consumer satisfaction to the end user.                                                                       Source:  +50 Magazine