Behind the Lines - October 2011

Leaner is better. That has been the swine breeders’ mantra for many decades. Commercial producers wanted lean pigs that grew fast and economically. Packers didn’t want fat that they had to throw away. Consumers wanted lean meat.

Canada has been a leader in this trend, selling its genetics to breeders in other countries around the world.

Those gains didn’t come without a cost. Consumers haven’t always been happy with the product they got. At least some of them want fat throughout the meat for flavour.  This issue’s cover story is about the industry’s efforts to meet varying demands for different genetics using ultrasound technology that was not available a few years ago. The day when a farrowing barn operator can order semen to produce high or low marbling is here now. That story, by Don Stoneman, starts on page 12.

Our nutrition writer Janice Murphy continues to examine the role that spray-dried blood plasma in feed plays in the feeding of newly weaned pigs. There’s more evidence that points towards an enhanced immune function in stressed pigs. Her article starts on page 25.

In the first of a two-part series, veterinarian Ernest Sanford looks at external parasitic diseases that have largely been removed from the province’s pig herds.  The writer says their elimination is a cause for celebration.

And our European writer, Norman Dunn warns that in Germany some highly productive herds are taking longer to farrow, throwing breeding schedules out of whack. It’s proof once again that, when it comes to genetics, not all gains are straightforward.

Robert Irwin

Better Pork - October 2011