Episode 21

Hello there.  This is Dr. Casey Bradley and you’re listening to The Real P3 podcast, a podcast dedicated to the real pork producers around the world. I hope you enjoy.

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So, in this week’s episode, we’re going to talk about boar fertility, phenotypes, genetics, and how to select the best animals for your system with the experts from Acuity Genetics, Amanda Minton and Dr. Justin Fix.  In case the name Acuity Genetics sounds a little unfamiliar, well, they’re a new company. They’re an off-shoot of the Maschhoff system here in the USA. So, stay tuned.

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Casey: Well, hello Amanda and Justin, how are you doin’ today?

Amanda: Hi, Casey.  Good.  Thanks for havin’ us.

Justin: Doin’ well, thank you for havin’ us.

C: Amanda, will you start us off and introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about Acuity and what you do with them?

A: Sure, yeah.  I’m the Associate Director of Reproductive Technology for Acuity.  Essentially in my role, I lead reproductive research efforts in collaboration with the Maschhoff’s R&D department as well as other industry and university partners.  I also provide on-farm support as well as lead a team of boar stud managers for our Acuity Forces.

C: Then are you based in Illinois?

A: I am not, I am based in Indiana. My family and I are in Indiana.

C: And Justin, can you introduce yourself and your role?

J: Absolutely, so official title is… Oh, I guess I should same my name, Justin Fix.  Official title is Director of Business Development and Genetic Improvement.  I am a trained geneticist, though much less of a geneticist today than I was yesterday, and decreasingly so every day.  Within my role in Acuity, I have the good fortune of having Amanda as part of my team, as well as the data entry and data capture for our internal program called Acutrek; that’s part of our team. I have a team of geneticists that I oversee every day as well.  As Acuity has launched over the last 12-18 months, I’ve added the business development.  We have a crew of a couple guys running around selling genetics as well.  Acuity, for those that aren’t familiar, is a wholly-owned genetic entity by the Maschhoff family. It started internally almost a decade to 12 years ago now, for an internal project of saying, “Hey, you know, we’re not quite seeing what’s out there in terms of what we want to see within the genetic programs and what others are doing.  We think we have some opportunities to purchase lines that can deliver integrated full system value more effectively.”  The Maschhoff’s agreed to make the investment at the request of Dr. Bradley Wolter and we’ve been running it now for going on, like I said, 10-12 years internally, improving it, working on it, validating it every day.  Now we’re looking to partner with others outside of the Maschhoff’s and offer it to the greater swine industry, both in the US and globally.

C: That’s awesome.  For anybody wanting to listen, I’ve gotten to see the Maschhoff genetics first-hand and pretty impressive offspring in those boars and listening to your group, they grow pretty efficiently and fast.

J: Yeah, it’s like I said, the thoughts are… when we look at it from an economics standpoint, it’s not necessarily how do we sell more genetics, it’s what creates more value.  We drive that value based on the Maschhoff commercial system; if you will, economic values, or marginal economic values apply that to our selection, and say how do we deliver that value more effectively. That’s where we came from and what we were born from and how we continue to focus going forward.

C: So, when you think of genetics and value from a producer standpoint, what are some of those key drivers, Amanda, that you’re looking at from a field perspective or your team out there?

A: One of the things that my focus area, I guess, is on reproduction and reproduction and genetics go hand in hand.  One of things we really tried to focus on the last several years is the fertility of the boar.  Today, boar studs generally operate on evaluating only motility and growth mark biology to decide whether or not to use a boar.  That’s really only the first step of understanding the fertility potential of that boar.  So, we know there are a lot of other things, other sperm characteristics, that characterize that fertility, and so really 10 or so years ago was when the seed was first planted to really try to characterize and understand that individual boar fertility.  So, the past 5-6 years, we’ve gotten individual boar fertility data and other sperm metrics that we’ve collected and validate a model to predict boar fertility today.

C: I think that’s wonderful. What are some of the other things, Justin, that you have to play with from a genetic standpoint, as a geneticist?  We talk about ruptures and stuff coming from boars and select boars.  What are you all putting in that model besides just fertility when you think of genetics?  It’s not as simple as most people think.  ‘I picked the nicest looking boar and hopefully he produces the best offspring.’

J: As my boss says, “Just pick the good one.”  Sounds pretty simple, right?  As we think about that, it really ties into your questions, both what Amanda referenced as well as what you asked about.  With the basics of animal selection, how do we have sows that produce more pigs and produce them more efficiently; on the terminal side how do we produce more pounds of pork through growth, mortality, efficiency, those types of things.  Generally speaking, producing more pigs, and producing pigs that are faster and more efficient is pretty easy. Those are things we’ve been doing for a long time.  It’s a basic selection process that’s been proven for decades.  The more challenging thing is some of the things you referenced, in our company we call them the silent killers.  Those that maybe show up in 1-2% of the population – scrotal ruptures or umbilical hernias or ruptures there, in addition to general late mortality in the finishing.  Those are things that just don’t show up in a big enough percentage.  It’s really hard to detect the genetic differences between them.  There most likely is a genetic influence, but when only 2% of the population has it, I’ve got to multiply my sample size times 50 to identify the differences between genetic lines.  What we think about and what we look at is what we call a commercial test herd.  Commercial test herd is where we make single sire matings from our nucleus-level animals of a commercial farm.  We do this for several reasons.  One, it allows us to get the sample size we need.  At the nucleus farm, your best of the best animals you just don’t make that many matings with the boar, because you’re just trying to produce maybe 1 or 2 offspring from him that create the next generation.  For premium mortality differences, we might need five hundred offspring to see those differences between sires.  So, I come back to that commercial test herd allows us to get the samples needed.  In terms of the number of offspring, as well as collects traits of interest at the commercial level: scrotal ruptures, pre-wean mortality, wean-to-market mortality, defects at the packing plant.  In addition to the things that Amanda talked about, by creating those matings at the commercial farm, we can get enough single sire matings from a boar to detect fertility differences.  Those fertility differences today or historically, we have not looked at on a boar basis.  I kind of rambled there, but I think I tied that together of how we collect real data in a real environment in numbers that allow us to detect the differences needed to find the boars that are either better or the ones that are the liability in the case of mortality or fertility issues.  It’s the really bad ones you want to get rid of, not necessarily make them all better.

C: I think that goes in, cause I mean I’ve understood some of the boar selection and how test stations work and different things.  They’re a little pampered sometimes.

J: Absolutely

C: Is the majority of pigs single-sired at Maschhoff’s, or is that just in your select research?

J: Great question. So, the Maschhoff’s today are plus or minus 185,000 sows, give or take a little there, depending on who’s counting and when.  Within that system, you know, you have some nucleus farms that are a part of Acuity today.  Then you have the multiplication.  The majority of the 150,000 sows of commercial business are pooled matings.  We have two farms, sister farms, it’s about 4200 sows, that get single-sire matings and track those pigs through there.  That would be what we call our commercial test herd farms. I think Amanda that could probably follow up on some of the pooling, single-sire components and what we hope to gain from that data.

A: Yeah, like Justin said, most of our matings are pooled, and right in the US, most of our matings are pooled.  I know that’s not the case as you look at some European countries around the globe, but one of the challenges with pooled semen is that we don’t know the fertility of the boars.  It creates insurance for us, which is great on one hand, but on the other we’re potentially getting the average fertility of the boars that are in the pool.  That’s where I think it’s so important to really characterize the fertility of those boars instead of just relying on an insurance policy.  Really understanding what that looks like to ultimately impact the performance at the sow farms.

C: Great points.  Looking at our global listeners here, I’ve had a few conversations, especially from Africa, talking about needing better genetics.  Then we go into the producer in the Netherlands producing 37 pigs per sow per year and he does his rotational breeding.  He does a little genetics, too, with phenotypic traits and stuff.  What is some good advice for producers who are looking for either good genetics or trying to do it internally?  What are some things that they need to be recording or looking at?  When you say 500 litters or 500 pigs, that’s probably not accessible to everybody out there.  So, what are some recommendations for producers to really, if they think between boar fertility and genetics, how can they improve that in their own systems?

J: That’s a great question, and as a true geneticist will say, “It depends,” because that’s our way of answering the questions.  It’s a little bit, like you said, those that are relying on a genetic company or a nutrition company or whatever, to supply you a product, I still would urge everybody to force them to prove their value.  Know that it’s going to vary. You think about independents to even large size systems. Historically, the Maschhoff’s and other largers have invested a lot of money in R&D.  “You bring me a product, and I don’t care about all your data, that’s just an entry point.  I’m still gonna validate that data in my system to ensure it’s there.” That’s a challenge for some, but I still would urge everybody to continue to evaluate their products.  Often times that may be a 20-week trial or a side-by-side trial.  Some way to compare, at least from the supply standpoint.  From the genetic improvement standpoint, one thing I like to focus on for commercial producers is focusing on doing the basics allows you to drive genetic progress.  If you’re doing a 45% replacement rate, and you have 5% sow mortality or 15% sow mortality, the genetic value being created is way different.  If I have 15% sow mortality, my 45% replacement rate is going to just fill holes.  Those new gilts coming in are just filling holes of empty animals.  But if I have a 90% farrow rate and 5% sow mortality, every week I’m getting to make dramatic decisions, or decisions on a dramatic number of animals, to who I’m gonna cull and replace with gilts.  That’s where the realization of the genetic improvement occurs.  I jumped around there.  One is validating the product, but also thinking about every day when you do the basics, it allows you to realize that genetic progress, because the animals going in and the animals going out are creating a bigger difference between them.

C: I love hearing a geneticist say that, because it’s the basics.  You can’t make improvement if you can’t get the basics right!

J: One other thing I say sometimes on the genetic improvement is there’s two ways to realize genetic improvement.  One, you raise the ceiling, so the ceiling is what… I like to say genetics sets the ceiling or the basement. Whatever the genetic ceiling is of an animal, we cannot really expand beyond that.  You can make arguments around that, but in a simple sense you can’t go beyond what the genetics will allow you to do.  So, we raise that ceiling, but if you can’t reach that ceiling easily, or 90% of the producers can’t reach the ceiling, it’s not realizable.  We’ll pretend that’s a word.  You’re not able to realize that genetic progress.  So, if we can make a product that more customers can more readily realize that value, that allows those basics to capture more realization of that value.  I think I got that right, if not, you guys can correct me in my description.

C: [chuckle] Amanda, any thoughts on that?

A: Just from a fertility standpoint, right, to Justin’s point about the basics, your breeding processes and those type things, boar exposure, right, you’re not going to realize the fertility potential of that boar, right, if you don’t have those basics correct. I guess the other thing I would, if I were in their shoes, challenge their semen suppliers to provide you with quality control data.  Ask how frequently they’re submitting samples to third parties to really understand the product that you’re getting. That said, it’s not going to give you the entire picture as we do it today, but it can definitely provide some transparency on the product that you’re receiving.

C: No, I would agree.  I think doing some of the boar work with Dr. Stewart really opened my eyes into… it’s not as simple as motility and morphology and diving into that.  So, I wonder, over time, have we… I grew up, we naturally made it, then we went to AI and now we’re doing post-cerubral and AI, so it’s changed a lot.  I think maybe we missed out sometimes on not knowing the bad boars, just because, like you said, the basics are collecting data.  What are some other genetic pressures that you’re looking at in your systems today beyond boar fertility?

J: That’s a big one, obviously, that Amanda’s team is working on with collaborators.  I’m really excited about some things; we don’t have a bunch to launch on that today in terms of scientific results, but I think we’re on the cusp.  From the rest of it, the way we think about it within our group is how we continue to identify phenotypes in a more effective manner.  You’ll see a lot of genetic companies, or really every entity, talk about the higher phenotyping, or whether it’s machine learning or video data capturing, or the ability to better identify the phenotype we have today, and the example I use is feet and legs.  I come from a judging background.  Anybody who listens to this knows, may laugh at my ability to judge, but let’s just pretend I know how, and let’s just pretend I know how to teach as well. And if that’s the case, we can teach people to see the differences in phenotype pretty easily.  But what we can’t necessarily teach is that 1 degree increase in angle, what does that mean? Or at what point does that shoulder really cost me a parity.  If we can objectify that, or create more objectivity I guess is probably the better way of saying that, around the phenotype with imaging, or with some of the stuff out of Iowa state with the sensors and in terms of the way they put weight down, that’s where we think about – and I’m not implying we have something ready to launch in that – but that in partnership with the Maschhoff’s is where we’re really furthering, or focusing I should say, our additional research and heading into the future. Another example is, in Amanda’s realm, is heat detection in sows, or sow behavior in the farrowing crate.  Things we know are different.  Things clearly have an underlying genetic effect, but the challenge is identifying the effective phenotype, or the correct phenotype.

That’s one area, then the other one is the further focus on realized commercial data.  I’ve hinted at it a couple times or referenced it.  Commercially collecting pre-wean mortality. The ruptures, nursery, finishing mortality.  We’re kind of in the process of validating, where we think genetically, we have almost three percent difference in mortality.  And not three percent difference from ten to three, from ten to 13 difference in pre-wean mortality from the high and low within the population.  So, those are things that we are finding, and we are seeing, and trying to further leverage genetics to drive the progress in those areas.

C: Sounds very similar to what I was looking at. A lot of conversations I had was looking into individual feeding and finishing and really understanding feed intake, and is there a point we can get to from you to genetically select the ideal pig, but some of the work I – working with Iowa state and things and these different feeders – is the feed intake patterns are all over the place coming off the pig. Is there a point that we sell that pig because he’s costing us money and even though he’s not at the ideal weight, right, and so at the same time, it’s just as valuable for you to say, “I don’t want that pig that eats so much feed cause he’s costing me money.”

J: And this one, controversial is not the right word, but where we might have a slightly different approach than a lot of others. So, we don’t actually evaluate individual pig intake or efficiency.  We have three 7200-head finishers with pen feed intake.  And we actually pen by sire to that commercial tester.  We will then look at pens of 20-22 head and look at feed intake from that standpoint.  The geneticists, from the modeling, we can have a whole conversation about how you model that versus others, but our belief from the standpoint of that behavioral aspect of pen intake vs individual feeders within a pen, those phenotypes aren’t the same.  What’s realized at the commercial level, we believe, and I would say know, but for sure believe, those phenotypes of that pen intake are more relatable to what we see in a commercial environment than what would be the individual feed intake recording vices.

C: I would agree.

J: Those systems are not… it’s a lot of data, it’s a lot of money to invest in that.  But it’s one of the very fortunate things we have in terms of the partnerships with the Maschhoff’s is we have access to those, and we’ve leveraged that.

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We wanna take this break to thank our sponsors, The Sunswine Group, NutraSign, Swine Nutrition Management and Pig Progress.  But we also wanted to remind you of our new Facebook group, the Global Swine Professionals.  We’re gonna be doing something fun; some live interviews, some Q&A and we just wanna hear from our audience, so that’s a great place for you to take the time, leave us a comment, tell us what you wanna hear, or volunteer to be on our show, because we’re always looking for those awesome pork producers around the world.  Well, that’s all I had, so let’s get back to that episode now.

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C: My goal from a nutritionist is how can I maximize the right feed for the right pig.

J: Right. Agreed completely. It’s a lot of things. You talked about on some research, and one thing that’s always intrigued me, as you think about larger systems for sure, you know, let’s say we’re selling 300-400 market loads a week from however many sites and however many different plants.  There’s a lot of optimization that can be done through algorithms to say, “Well, I may sell this lot, barns out of this one five days early, even though they’re seven pounds lighter, to this plant, because when I summarize and based on their current feed consumption they’re less efficient than the one next to ‘em.” There’s a lot to get there, but I think there’s real opportunity to further leverage efficiency through those types of things, particularly in larger systems.  Completely unrelated to genetics, but some things that are pretty cool to me that I think we can get to at some point.

C: It’s still a three-legged stool.  Genetics, nutrition, management.  You put health in there under management, so…

J: Amanda would throw off nutrition and put in reproductive physiology.

[laughter]

A: That is right! We can’t forget repro, yeah. My husband’s a nutritionist, so we go back and forth on which is more important, right?  They all play a role, but yeah.

C: We can’t all stand alone, I’m sorry.

J: It’s very much a systems approach. You can’t have one without the other. It’s not just about… There’s very little in life I’ve come to believe as I’ve gotten older and older – well, I’m not that old, but I feel older – in maximization or minimization. So much of it comes to an optimization, that you’re giving up something when you look in another direction. The same thing in a genetic program.  Driving one trait is going to come at the expense of something else.  How we balance that to ultimately get the most good outcome is beyond just genetics.  It’s all the approaches.

C: I love the idea that you said I could cull based on having a crazy sow.  That was a legitimate culling reason.  I’ve had some conversations this week as I look into data management, and as you said optimizing systems.  On a reproductive standpoint, Amanda, are we pushing these sows too far?  Everybody wants to get that 40 pigs/sow.  Is there something else we should be optimizing before we get to 40? In repro-physiology, it’s coming at a cost.

A: Yep. Good question. Um, you know, I think, when I go to farms, from a lactation management standpoint, I don’t think we’re quite there yet in terms of maximizing that lactation feed intake or just management of that sow during lactation.  So, I think there’s certainly some opportunities from that standpoint of how we treat that sow after farrowing and during lactation and then post-weaning.  So, I think there’s opportunities there.  I think it’s an interesting question, right, because as you look at some of the other countries and what they’re doing with the number of pigs that sows are capable of raising.  Are there management focused items that we could implement in the US, to get those sows to raise more pigs than what she’s raising today?  Yeah, I think there’s opportunities there; we just need to continue to look into it, I guess.

C: No, I mean that’s the great debate between…  I’m not sure if it’s genetics, nutrition or management; we have this conversation is… I’ve had a lot of… a couple episodes on milk crates, right? And I have a lot of questions from Africa, how can I raise more pigs and talk to US Producers, especially the integrated side of things, “We don’t want milk crates, it’s a pain in the butt… it was a complete train wreck.” But, when we look at, you know… I’ve had this debate all my career… more viable pigs? Less pigs, more viable; more pigs, less viable.  I think it goes back, you said, even in lactation we’re not treating them right. What are some things, Justin… we both grew up in the show industry… and I think, Amanda, you maybe showed a little bit, too, in the past?

A: Yep. Sheep. I showed sheep.

J: From [inaudible]

C: You know, going back to the gilt development, and I remember interviewing Christine Snowden from Heimerl’s and talking about how she’s really been able to lower her sow mortality, sow culling rate, by what she’s doing on the gilt development floor. Talk about, from a phenotypic standpoint – you’ve talked about angle of hock and things – what are some things that people really need to evaluate on these gilts before they become mothers?

J: That’s a great question. I wanna make sure I speak to this from a non-implicating of anybody I’ve worked with before and implying where opportunities lie. So, when you think about a lot of times – giltsy a word I’ve used, the term I thought about is napkins, right?  “There’s gonna be more comin’, we’re just gonna use ‘em.  We’ll just keep bringin’ ‘em into the farm without a lot of thought behind ‘em.”  So that’s one aspect of realizing the investment in that animal.  Knowing how much you’ve put into that   how much value they can create in the future versus, “Oh, I’m gonna get another load of gilts in a four weeks, or 12 weeks whatever it is, and they’re just gonna come.”  So having that mentality of realizing the investment and also realizing what I do today in gilts doesn’t pay off tomorrow.  It is not an immediate feedback mechanism; what we’re doing on ‘em will take some time to pay off, but it will.  As I think back to that, first off is having enough to actually select from.  A lot of times we’ll run where we just really don’t. You know, you think about – the way I think about it – if I wanna target a 65% selection rate, so if I placed 100 gilt to weaning, I’m gonna select 65 of them.  If I run in the 50% too long, I’m gonna be really expensive on my gilts.  If I run in the 70-75, I’m not doing a whole lot of selection; we’re just selecting them out.  So that’s the first off, is making sure we have enough, and have enough consistency, consistently, and then going into actually insuring from an underlying standpoint.

Do they have 14 functional?  They don’t go in with 14, they’re not going to get more later in life.  And we know they’ll lose ‘em.  Often times, maybe I think in my masters, it was a half to three-quarters of one per parity, in terms of what she starts with.  And so, we have to have that.  We have to have from the standpoint of what we think about the feet and legs.  A lot of work out of Iowa State with Ken Stalder, some people don’t like the weak front pasterns but those actually do show more longevity.  One of the big issues is the erect shoulder, so if they’re getting up on their tippy-toes and they’re almost leaning over that they’re kinda falling over themselves forward, front-ward they’ll have real issues with longevity.  On the rear leg, it’s the extremes, if you get too much of a Landray’s hind leg, if you’d wanna say they’ll almost be where they’re under themselves, and they’ll dog-sit as the boar studs would call ‘em or sow farms and they’re just sitting in that farrowing crate almost all day with their legs pointed out and they’re sittin’ a lot.  Same thing can be on those that are really erect, and you’ll start seeing hip issues.  If they’re almost on their tiptoes in their rear, there’s just not a lot of flex in that upper skeleton, so any issues, particularly group housing, they get knocked off, there’s some fighting or whatever, there’s a real likelihood of upper skeleton discomfort, if you will, from the standpouint of there’s just not the flex to allow them to handle that movement.  Those would be really the keys that I’d think about is the angle of the front shoulder, making sure they’re not over front, and then on the rear leg, both, they’re not too much set in terms of being underneath themselves, and/or that they’re too erect from there.

Then the third thing – doesn’t really affect longevity, but you know the kyphos – is the curvature of the spine, that’s a fairly heritable trait and Justin Holl with USDA Marked did some work on that probably 15 years ago and they said that it’s pretty heritable, so if they’ve got that broken top, and it’s not just the vitamin deficiency aspect, but the true genetic component, that’ll be passed on and packers don’t like that.

Those would be a couple things.  Teat count, feet and legs, biggest is realizing the value, and then the other thing, too, is making sure we have enough to select from, and probably the final thing is they’re not a market hog, don’t feed ‘em like one.  I’m not a nutritionist, I’ll let you speak to that, Casey, but I know more than one situation I’ve ran into where, “Well, we don’t really wanna add a diet.” Trust me, it’ll be worth it in terms of making sure you treat her like she needs to be treated, she’ll pay off in the end.

C: Well, Justin you made really another great point that we could sit here and argue all day on. Selection rate, I love to hear it at 65% because if… My last job we really talked about we were able to improve selection rate by feeding extra Vitamin D.  Let’s talk about, Amanda, from your viewpoint as well, that selection rate 65% versus 75-80%.  Now, are you ok with a 90% selection rate if they’re quality animals? Or I mean, is it really for a genetic improvement, we wanna push it as low as we can but watch the economics.

A: If you’ve got 90% of animals that meet all your selection criteria, yeah I don’t know why you would get rid of some of those animals, but more than likely we don’t have 90% of our animals that meet that selection criteria, whether it’s structure or other things.  But the other important thing is, too, when you do get those gilts selected, right, you bring them in making sure that, from a management standpoint, that we’re providing boar exposure at the right time, because I think that still even if you’ve got ‘em selected, that it’s still an afterthought, right? Gilt development is still an afterthought? And so, even if you’ve got ‘em selected and they’re all good phenotypically, I think we do a little bit of a disservice in terms of skipping boar exposure, skipping all those types of things that are really important to identify the right females to breed and bring into the herd.

C: Getting back to the basics.

J: That is a good point. You know, the 65%. If you’re running the 90, there’s just too much genetic and environmental variation in a population to have an expectation that your animals will… that there’s not going to be a bit of a fall-out there. But I have seen some systems that do a really good job on the female side at the multiplier, that they when you implement really well at the multiplier and you have good phenotype going in, really good farrow-rates and those types of things on the multiplier, you can get a higher rate, because that quality at the multiplier is filtered down and maybe 72-73% isn’t out of the question to be sustainable, but sometimes that’s a challenge to get that implemented there, too.

C: And I think as we look at global swine production, and we talk about China, and you’re hearing ASF really hitting hard again, and talking to different people over there, they’re really struggling just with the long-term impact because they’re filling those holes, and they’re filling those holes with terminal pigs and not only that, those terminal gilts are bringing in diseases they didn’t normally have in their sow herds, and so we’ve had a lot of conversations on that.  I think everybody would agree, they need to be treated like a gilt, and we need to stop just filling the holes because I think that just compounds our problems.

J: Yes, it does. Those holes keep showing up. They don’t fill them all the way, so you gotta deal with it and continue to deal with it.

C: Well, before we go, this is your opportunity.  I get to turn the table and you can ask me almost anything you want.

[laughter]

A: I guess, Casey, You spend a lot of time talking internationally.  What’s one thing, if you look at the US Swine industry, what’s one thing we’re missing or not doing maybe the way we should compared with international colleagues?

C: This is gonna be tough.  I still feel that I think it can be international or it can be anywhere.  I think we’ve lost some of our stockmanship, our husbandry.  And, as you know, Amanda, you work with me with the students as well and stuff, it’s how do we get the right people in the right jobs, and every industry is the same.  It doesn’t matter if you’re in agriculture or my husband’s a police officer.  It’s the same conversation.  I think I would say as we’ve gotten larger and we could see our consumers’ perceptions as well, it’s a factory farm, we’re not taking care of ‘em.  I go into these farms, and I see a lot of basics aren’t getting covered.  But I’ve worked in those farms, too, and you just don’t have the time a lot of times.  So, I think the biggest thing we’re probably doing wrong is that we have per person on the farm, we have too many sows under one person’s control. I would say that’s probably, talking to different people, our main flaw.

J: And then when our budgeted number is always 20% short cause we don’t have anybody there, so then you’re even exacerbating it more!

C: Right, and so that’s kinda where I hope through other people and myself that we can find some AI technologies and things that you talked about Justin, of taking that human out of it.  Using the valuable employees we have differently and more effectively, and then taking some of that stuff that we can get by with computers and ai and robotics, I think, will be the future.  I don’t think that matters if you’re in the US or Europe or Africa or anywhere.  As I’ve noticed, even talking to Africa, is I think – what we think’s a gamechanger for us and really hard to push the needle, little things that you’ve talked about, Justin, just selecting the right boar for them makes huge gains.  So, how do we help developing countries get the right genetics?  Have you guys looked at that from Acuity and that standpoint of some of these growing markets?

J: Two things on that.  One, your statement, and I don’t remember, somebody had posted it on LinkedIn and I don’t wanna credit it cause I’ll probably be wrong on who, but you know from a food production standpoint, if we were able to help the developing world, developing countries I should say, increase their production efficiencies by x%, you know or food scarcity, like from a greenhouse gas standpoint, our carbon footprint within production would dramatically be reduced in terms of those efficiencies.  I wasn’t very articulate in trying to say that statement there, but I’d read just what you’d stated the other day that some of those developing countries of where we are in that return curve, or from an investment, is dramatic.  Minor things bring a ton of value.  To answer your question, we have – obviously China has been a focus, some of the other southeast Asian countries as well – our focus today is ensuring we build a strong foundation in the US.  That’s gonna be what we build off of for a variety of reasons, and still focusing with an eye to the international, but with a realization that – particularly myself, although I like to think I’m able to more at a time than I’m really able to do, but – ensuring we focus here and not get distracted by the other opportunities, but realizing we’ve got to be there at some point in time, because the global pork market is going to grow outside the US at a much higher rate.  And proportionally in terms of sheer volume than it ever will in the US in the near future.  That was a really long way of saying, we’re focusing US but also having an eye to the international because you need to be there.

C: So, Amanda, if somebody wants to get ahold of you in Acuity, how do they do that?

A: So, my email is Amanda.Minton@acuityswine.com, and you can get hold of me there.  I’m also on LinkedIn.

C: Justin?

J: Same thing, Justin.Fix.  I will spell F-I-X.  You get an odd look a lot of times when you spell that, but if I don’t, some people will ask.  Justin.Fix@acuityswine.com.  We have our website: Acuityswine.com.  Find us on there.  Some information, also as well as the team.  You know, you’re talking to Amanda and I, but for sure, I’m not the one who does the vast majority of the work.  Amanda counts for a lot more of it than I.  And there’s a whole bunch of other ones out there that are supporting us, too, that you can find on the website and have a variety of topics beyond just what Amanda and I spoke about today.

C: Well, thank you for being on the show.  Any last comments/thoughts before we go?

J: No, I just wanna thank you again.  I appreciate it.  I know we just met recently, but we both have a connection to SW Michigan.  I don’t think we’re on video, so we can’t do the Michigan point to the hand  [chuckling] thing, but at least we can reference that verbally.

C: I’ll make sure that we put it in on our advertisement.  It’s a good connection.  The great lakes region, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.

J: [laughter]

A: There we go. There we go.  Yep, thanks Casey.

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Before we go, we wanna thank our sponsors again.  Swine Nutrition Management, NutraSign, Pig Progress and The Sunswine Group.  Don’t forget to join our Facebook the Global Swine Professionals.  And as always, if you get a chance, hug a pig for me today.

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