DES MOINES — Yes, the World Pork Expo provides great opportunities for snoopy ag writers like me to learn. For example, my chance meeting with Ramon Martinez, a Canadian working the Danbred exhibit at the Expo. He told me some very intelligent Danish swine breeders — through intensive genetic progeny studies — had developed a new strain delivering upwards of 18 to 20 pigs per farrowing.
“And soon, European swinesmen were clamoring to get this new genetics into their hog production systems,” Martinez told me.
Soon this ‘new bloodline’ showed up in Latin America in places like Colombia, Mexico, Chile and Argentina. “Next was to bring this new genetics to North America via Canada and proper quarantine. Then into North Dakota and Minnesota. We’re looking to establish a nucleus to start re-building new herds in eastern Canada and our benchmark states here in North America.”
At the Expo, Martinez said, “Because of heat conditions we were expecting small attendance. But this first day is exceptional. And I’m learning interest in our new Danbred swine line is great too. Because the profit cycle is good right now in the swine industry and Covid issues are now behind us, hog farmers appear to be gearing up for bigger herds, more production.
“Hog people knowledgeable about swine genetics in Europe recognize the Danbred name,” Martinez went on to say. “I visited Denmark three months ago. I was impressed … they are now talking 43.5 weaned pigs per sow per year. That’s an improvement in litter size of 22 to 23 pigs per farrowing. Yes, a small decrease in birth weight of these piglets; but look at the bonus of more piglets. Four to five farrowings per lifetime is normal. But now, six to seven farrowings are also common in this new Danbred breeding.”
Martinez also told me Danish law outlaws total confinement production. Instead, open pen housing is mandated in Denmark.
So do these significant advances in production efficiencies of the new genetics have any impact on pork quality? “None whatsoever,” Martinez responded, and no change in muscle mass vs. fat content of the pig carcass.
I asked Fred Segrid, Danbred Manager-Americas, what precipitated this new breeding line within your company?
“Improvement is the obvious answer,” Segrid replied. “We first talked this change at the 2015 World Pork Expo. Yes, this involved hundreds of trials; thousands of comparisons of various genetic blood lines. But big news at this expo: We’ve got 900 females just out of quarantine in Ontario Province, Canada now heading for our new nucleus system at Crosby, N.D. Plus, 100 boars also just cleared quarantine and arrived yesterday at our Bricelyn, Minn. facility. These are the first animals directly from Denmark into the United States in nearly 20 years!
Segrid said the hogs had been in quarantine for about four months. “They’re weighing close to 350 pounds. Give them about four weeks to settle in and they’re ready to go to work. Then we’ll start collecting semen offering to current Danbred producers in both Minnesota and North Dakota, plus of course additional commercial swine producers wanting to check us out.
Is this new bloodline likely to replace current genetics with your producers?
“Our Canadian/U.S. venture started with imported some boars from Denmark in the mid-1990s and they did very well. Evaluated in the National Swine Registry, these boars ranked 1, 2, 3 and 4. Yes, they did quite well. At that time Danbred had a business relationship with a Nebraska group called Danbred North America. That business broke down in 2012. That company turned into DNA which has done very well. But then, another group from Denmark came here with another new Danish line. So this is a new Danbred line — but the ‘children’ of previous generations were already well known here in the U.S. Since then, genetic progress within the Danbred Company has been considerable. World-wide, they are a reliable breeder — particularly within the Duroc lines. So, yes … I think this new genetics will gain rapid acceptance everywhere.”