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Adapting pork production to local conditions in Brazil

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Duration: August 01, 2014 – September 01, 2019

Project information

Aim: Brazilian pork production is mainly based on feeding soy and corn. This project investigates alternative pig feeds (including Macaúba by-products) and opportunities to breed pigs that are better adapted to these feeds and tropical circumstances. As such the project aims to decrease (feed) costs of Brazilian pork production and reduce the dependency on soy and corn, which will contribute to a more sustainable local pork production. Also, the project assumes that by generating additional economic activities involved in harvesting and processing of Macaúba by-products, and by allowing global breeding plans to serve specific local breeding goals, the long-term competitiveness of local pork production in Brazil will be improved.

Objective: Improving food security by fulfilling, at least partly, the increasing demand for animal protein. Environmental sustainability as a result of feed efficiency.

Method: Quantification of threats in pork production by developing and evaluating alternatives and breeding strategies; improving the use of locally produced feed ingredients; and increasing the feed efficiency through genetic selection.

Country: Brazil.

Dutch policy goals: Increase sustainable food production; and Improved access to nutrition.

Progress reports

Year 1: The LocalPork project has started with hiring 3 PhD students. Hiring the 4th PhD candidate in animal nutrition has been delayed due to severe changes in government funding at the University of Viçosa (UFV). The first nutrition experiments for this PhD project have been implemented by staff at UFV. The other 3 PhD candidates are on schedule with their first research objectives. For the genetic analyses, required methodology is developed to make the genetic link between crossbred pigs, kept locally, and purebred animals where selection has to take place. The methodology has been tested on simulated as well as real pig data. Also, analyses to estimate the genetic correlations are underway. These methods and estimates are needed to design breeding strategies to improve overall feed efficiency. For the economic analysis, objectives and methodology for comparing costs and environmental impacts of current versus local feed sources have been articulated. Challenges have been encountered to start the “high-low” trials for testing feed efficiency of animals with high and low predicted breeding values. The intended facilities to perform these trials were no longer available after the research location of Topigs do Brasil was closed. Negotiations with two alternative locations outside the project partners are underway. Chemical analyses of the feed alternative, Macauba, showed surprisingly low levels of protein. With this knowledge, alternative rations will be designed and evaluated in digestibility trials on growing pigs. Permits to start these trials in Brazil are awaiting approval. The alternative rations will be designed to take into account not only the nutritional requirements of growing pigs but also their economic and environmental impact on pork production. Results from these designs and trials will show the impact of alternatives on the need for arable land and the, reduced, dependence on corn and soy as feed ingredients.

Summary mid-term review: To increase the availability of low cost, locally produced pork as a high quality protein food the LocalPork project aims to improve the efficiency of pig growth in Brazil. Genetic analysis showed that selecting purebred pigs for growth and efficiency is not 100% effective for improving the performance of typical growing pigs that are crosses. A methodology was developed to enhance the genetic improvement for feed efficiency in crossbred pigs. The method allows a breeding programs that improves purebred populations to use data recorded on pigs that are crossbred. This methodology was shown to be effective according to both simulations and analyses of real data. To reduce the economic cost and environmental impact of producing pork, diets including alternative ingredients were shown to be beneficial. Different ingredients were included in this analysis, including kernel cake, a byproduct of producing oil from Macauba. The availability and acceptance of byproducts such as Macauba was discovered to be a potential issue with farmers.

Year 3: To increase the availability of low cost, locally produced pork as a high quality protein food the LocalPork project aims to improve the efficiency of pig growth in Brazil. Genetic analysis showed that selecting among pigs that are fed one diet does not give us the pigs that are most energy efficient on another diet. A methodology was developed to enhance the genetic selection for feed efficiency in crossbred pigs. The benefits of the method appear to come only when the cross is made between very different breeds and the traits to be improved are lowly heritable. When the environmental impact of pork production and the farmers attitudes towards risks are included the importance of traits for pig breeding change. Reproduction becomes less important and efficient growth becomes somewhat more important. Producers of alternative products, like Macaúba, are now contributing to the research on including their products in pig diets.

 

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Claudia Sevillano is a genetics researcher involved in the NWO Global Challenges Programme (GCP) project called “Locally adapted pork production in Brazil versus the Netherlands”. She has written this story of change following the GCP training on November 1, 2017, facilitated by Perspectivity. »

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