October/November 2013 - page 10

Mike Paul
CEO, National Swine Registry
NSR Editorial
Open Mike
Stockman native
Last month, Brian Arnold and I
enjoyed meeting and interviewing several
candidates for the eld sta position.
ese meetings and interviews brought
many people that are very passion-
ate about the activities and programs
provided by the National Swine Reg-
istry and the National Junior Swine
Association. Each candidate brought
di erent thoughts and new ideas.
eir ideas gave us an opportunity to
see how others view what we do.
One of the candidates mentioned
during his interview that he was a ‘digital
native.’ His term referring to the change
in how most of our members do business
with the di erent social media platforms
struck a chord with me. I’ll admit that
while I can navigate the digital world,
I’m far from a native. But I was fortunate
to grow up in the purebred swine indus-
try, so I’d call myself a ‘stockman native.’
I have seen all the type changes in our
industry over the years and some have
repeated themselves more than once.
Today, I hear rumblings in this country
about the number of gilts that will not
breed or cannot have pigs naturally and
require a C-section. Folks, I’m not telling
you what type of animals to raise, but I
do want to provide a brief history lesson
with the di erent trends I have seen
over the years, and the issues we created
by going to extremes with each type.
We raised heavy-muscled, smaller-
framed pigs in the ’60s and sold them
on a ham/loin index. (Remember, we
marketed animals at 200 lbs during this
time.) My father was glad he had sons
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with smaller arms to
assist these females
delivering their lit-
ters. When we real-
ized that we went to
the extreme with this
small, heavy-muscled
type, we made a concerted e ort to breed
taller-fronted, longer-bodied animals.
We were successful in breeding
taller-fronted pigs in the ’70s, but they
were also at ribbed and at muscled.
Once again, we went to the extreme
edge of type and produced animals
that did not have the ability to get up
and down in the crates. Without hav-
ing the correct curvature to their rib,
these females came out of the farrowing
rooms in poor condition, and many
wouldn’t rebreed. Again, we realized
that we went to the extreme edge with
this type, so we started using more
moderate, heavy-conditioned boars.
We continued this trend in the ’80s,
until we pushed the type too far, yet
again. Once more, we had females that
were unable to farrow litters and raise
their pigs productively. To top it o , the
market demanded a leaner product.
Striving to meet this demand,
producers imported animals from
Europe that moved our genetic lines o
center to reach the goal of leaner hogs
with higher cutability. But we made
animals too lean, too tight gutted, and
they grew too slowly. ese females
did not have the ability to consume
enough feed to stay productive and
moved out of our herd too quickly.
In the early 2000s, we came to real-
ize we’d pushed our genetics too far o
center to be productive, so we bred
hogs with more rib, depth and width of
body, bone and heaviness of structure.
Today, I’m concerned that we have
moved too far with this type of animal.
When we hear the terms like, “widest
coming at you,” “heaviest structured,”
“deepest ribbed” and “softest made” to
describe our females, I’m afraid that
these terms relate to those sows that
can’t breed or have pigs on their own.
Maybe, it is the ‘-est’ part that
concerns me most. I realize that to
make a change in your breeding pro-
gram, you might need to reach out and
incorporate some of the ‘-est’ traits, but
your whole herd does not need to t
in the ‘-est’ box. Take time to evaluate
your breeding program and how you
select your next herd boar or founda-
tion female. Instead of simply selecting
the ‘-est,’ try searching for the ‘best.’
As I mentioned, I may not be a
digital native that can navigate through
all the latest gadgets, but as a stock-
man native, I have seen enough in-
dustry trends and change to navigate
through genetic improvement.
Take time to evaluate your breeding program
and how you select your next herd boar or
foundation female. Instead of simply selecting
the ‘-est,’ try searching for the ‘best.’
October/November 2013
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