Genesus ongoing commitment to delivering value

The Rock Lake Research Center in Ballaton, MN provides Genesus, the ability to measure feed intake, gain, and body composition to ensure the diet specifications given are current and focused on cost per pound of gain.

 Every seven weeks a group (1200 hd) of Genesus full program pigs are placed in the nursery to begin the process of evaluating and updating diet specifications.  This means every seven weeks a group of pigs are taken off-test and sent to harvest for evaluation of economically important performance, carcass and meat quality traits.  During the time in nursery/finisher, pigs are fed in stages as to determine the most profitable diets throughout the life of the pig.  It is important to understand each stage to ensure the minimum requirement is met and to maximize profit by optimizing the balance between the animal’s nutrient requirements, performance and carcass value. 

Lysine, the first-limiting amino acid, is one of the most important discussed parts of a diet.  One of the things Genesus discovered in doing this research was lysine was being over-fed using average nutrient requirement recommendations (2015).  This was due to the appetite of the Genesus pig.  Since that time Genesus has updated ration recommendations resulting in improved feed conversion while lowering the cost per pound of gain.  However, lysine is not the only factor evaluated in a nutrient recommendation.  The lysine/energy ratio and other amino acids are also important and play a critical role in optimizing cost per pound of gain.

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The strategy used by Genesus in its scientific research is to track 1200 pigs every seven weeks post weaning.  The experimental period is broken into 3 categories: 1. Nursery, 2. Finishing,  3. Plant.

  • In the nursery:

Pigs are split by sex and randomly allocated in a randomized complete block design, with weight as the block.  Approximately 25 (±2) pigs are assigned per pen, with 12 pens/treatment, allowing us to evaluate up to 5 different treatments per group.  All pens utilize nipple waterers that are set at the shoulder level of the smallest pig and adjusted as needed. Pigs and feeders are weighed on day 0, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, and 42 to calculate ADG, ADFI, and F/G, these frequencies can change depending on the trial.  An automated feeding system records the amount of feed distributed to each pen.  In the event a pig died or became unfit for the trial it is removed and the date and weight is recorded for accurate calculations of feed intake and efficiency for a given pen. Fecal samples are also collected on day 0, 14, 28, and 42 for bacteria identification.

  • In the finisher:

Pigs are split by sex and randomly allotted to a randomized complete block design, with weight as the block.  Approximately 25 (±1) pigs are assigned per pen, with 12 pens/treatment, allowing us to evaluate up to 5 different treatments per group.  All pens utilize nipple waterers that are set at the shoulder level of the smallest pig and adjusted as needed. Pigs and feeders are weighed on day 0, 14, 28, 42, 56, 70, 84, 98, and 111 to calculate ADG, ADFI, and F/G, these frequencies can change  depending on the trial. An automated feeding system records the amount of feed distributed to each pen.  The feed intake data generated from this system minus the weight of the feed remaining in the feeder at the end of each stage is used to calculate the cost per pound of gain. Body composition is also measured at each weigh day during the process using ultrasound technology. Tissue samples are taken on animals are incorporated into the genomics program of Genesus. In the event a pig died or became unfit for the trial it is removed and the date and weight is recorded for accurate calculations. Fecal samples are also collected on day 14, 42, and last week before marketing for bacteria identification.

  •   In the plant:

Pigs are transported to harvest after the test is complete to measure carcass composition and meat quality.  The plant utilizes the same ultrasound technology as the farm does so Genesus is able to get an accurate measure of carcass composition. At the completion of some trials a subset of loins (or other primals) are used to do detailed carcass and meat quality work including: color, pH, marbling, tenderness, yields, etc.  The data collected during this phase of the process is also included in the genomics program of Genesus as pigs are identified individually and genetically linked through the tissue samples taken.

Conclusion:

Measuring pigs from start to finish is the only way to accurately know the impact of nutritional recommendations.  The benefits for Genesus of doing this research are: improve growth rate, update diet specifications to optimize cost per pound of gain, incorporate commercial data into genetic program, and to evaluate carcasses for composition and meat quality. Genesus continues to focus on maximizing genetic improvement of economically important traits and optimum cost per pound of gain while maintaining a product that has the best eating experience. 

The key. Ultra modern research facilities that utilize automatic feed recording equipment. A research protocol that includes bi-weekly weighing, live pig ultrasound testing, and packing plant carcass evaluation. The goal maximize Genesus customer profitability through lower cost of gain, optimum growth and meat quality.



What does optimal FCR really mean?
Derek Petry, Ph.D.

As a genetic supplier, one of the first topics discussed in any meeting is feed conversion ratio (FCR).  While a very easy value to calculate, it is important to know the relationship between FCR and profitability. There are numerous factors that can contribute to the pigs FCR including: nutrition (i.e. pellets vs. mash, grind size, ingredients, etc.), housing (i.e. type of feeder, stocking density, temperature control, etc.), health, and genetics.

A paper written by Dr. Dean Boyd titled “Integrating Science into Practice and Getting it Right” determined the 10 most important metrics for profitability of the top 25% of firms (See Table 1; Boyd, 2012).  Interestingly, FCR was ranked number 10, and the most profitable firms actually had worse caloric feed conversion ratio than the average firm. Thus, optimal FCR was more related to profitability than lowest FCR.

1 Agri Stats Inc., March 2011 report for January – December 2010 (N = 68 firms)
2Advantage = computed to be the fold-difference of the Top 25% over/under the average
3 Item 9, days to market, not shown but was equivalent for the Average and Top 25%.

The question really becomes, if we are trying to drive FCR as low as possible, what are we giving up and are we really driving profitability in the right direction?  There are several ways to improve FCR, including, but not limited to: 1. Selecting for faster growth while holding feed intake constant, 2. Selecting for lower feed intake while holding growth constant, 3. Selecting for faster growth and for lower feed intake.  Each scenario has outcomes that may or may not be favorable with other production parameters. 

Genesus has focused on maintaining feed intake at status quo and selecting for pigs that grow faster.  This allows the Genesus pig to improve on FCR, yet handle stressors (i.e. diseases challenge, out of feed events, management, etc.) it encounters.  Understanding how to feed an animal to its appetite and nutritional needs is critical to profitability.  Since most genetic providers focus on FCR as a main trait they have pushed down the intake of the animal, and these can’t be fed the same way as animals that have a higher appetite.  To get the best performance you must feed to the appetite and nutritional needs of that line and not to the lowest FCR, otherwise, as we have found, we are overfeeding things like lysine, energy, phosphorus and causing non-optimal performance and costing a lot of money.

Is clear that cost per pound of gain is an important piece of profitability as feed represents 65-75% of the total cost of producing a slaughter pig.