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Iowa Pork Congress: Genetic gains lead to increased profitability

5 March 2020, at 12:00pm

When considering genetic gains, pig producers want to improve traits that increase profitability and ease of production.

Dan Hamilton, director of product performance with PIC, speaks to The Pig Site's Sarah Mikesell at Iowa Pork Congress.

“Producers want things like improved growth rate, improved feed conversion, throughput, lower mortality and more pounds marketed,” noted Dan Hamilton, director of product performance with PIC. “They certainly want to have larger litter size and better quality lean pigs from the sow.”

PIC is involved in the genetic improvement of pigs, with a goal to improve the pig at a faster rate every day. They’re doing that through increased population size, realized product differentiation and large scale accurate data collection.

“PIC has made some strategic investments in terms of population size by growing our elite farms,” said Hamilton. “Having greater populations of animals allows us to do more differentiated selection, so we can have better quality animals delivered to both our customers and back to our nucleus to make the next generation better at a faster rate.”

PIC has improved the accuracy of their populations through relationship-based genomics. This has improved their rate of genetic progress by about 35%.

“We also have a large genetic crossbred program that allows us to test our genetics in a commercial environment and improve traits like robustness and commercial growth rate,” he noted. “Those are some key things that we've invested in to get genetics that are performing at a high rate for our customers.”

Data Driving Decision-making

“Data drives the industry. You hear a lot of things about big data and data accuracy, and we keep investing in new tools to gather more data about our pigs in order to select for more traits that improve the rate of genetic progress,” Hamilton said.

PIC currently measures more than 20 different traits in their pigs, and those traits are tied to different economic values to ensure they create an index that drives value in their producer's herds.