Spanish pig breeding is growing through integrations

Integrations and data consumption ensure that the Spanish pig sector continues to grow, while declining in most European countries. Already 90 percent of the pig herd will probably be in an integration by the end of this year, says director Alberto Morillo Alujas from the Spanish test and research.

In a short time, Spain has grown into a major player in the pig sector. There are now 34 million pigs in Spain, of which about 2.7 million are sows. In 1986, when the country became a member of the European Union, there were 15 million pigs in Spain.

The country should first be free of African swine fever. It succeeded in 1995, according to Morillo at Coli & Clostridium Day organized by Hipra. Only then could exports to third countries really start. However, there were still some declines due to outbreaks of classical swine fever in 1998 and 2001.

African swine fever

According to Morillo, African swine fever is now a threat to the Spanish sector again. Sales to third countries cease immediately as soon as an infected pig is found. Spain is the third largest exporter of pork worldwide. According to CBS figures with a value of 5.7 billion euros in 2020.

Many people know the Spanish pork sector from the pictures of the Iberico pigs going outside and eating acorns. They supply the famous and unaffordable Iberico ham for 1,000 euros each. But it is only a very small part of the sector ‘, says Morillo. ‘The characteristics of the sector are the integrations. They have enabled the enormous growth of the Spanish pig sector. ‘

No Marshall help

The integrations started when Spain did not receive Marshall aid after World War II, Morillo indicated. ‘Then people started looking for a good system to produce more of their own food. In the case of pigs, it started with dealers who sold piglets to sow keepers. These dealers bought flour mills and turned them into feed mills. The piglets were placed with fattening pig farmers on a feed money basis. ‘

The integrations have since grown significantly. They arrange almost everything. They provide their own breeding material, which they supply to the sowing farmers, take the piglets to the fattening pig farmers and also supply them with the feed. For example, there are also vaccination teams that take care of the vaccinations on the farms.

Increase earnings

The pig breeder provides housing, energy and labor and gets paid for the delivered animals. ‘He can increase his earnings by ensuring low mortality and good feed turnover,’ says Morillo. And he does not have to worry about sales. The pig farmer goes to the bank to build the stables. And he is then told by the integration that this pig breeder is a participant in the integration, which is therefore more or less responsible for the loan. ‘

There is no shortage of space for new stables. Almost all Spaniards live on the coast and in Madrid. The rest of the country is empty. This is not to say that there are no requirements for companies. A company must keep 3,300 sows or 7,800 fattening pigs. And there are minimum distances between companies of a few kilometers.

All in your own hands

Because the integrations have everything in their own hands, there is also a really good overview of all data. They know exactly what genetics they have in house, what feed the pigs get, what vaccinations and so on. ‘Record as much data as possible about your pigs,’ advises Morillo.

»Then you can also look concretely at where there are still opportunities for improvement. So always focus on one part and try not to examine many variables at once. By focusing on one component, you really see if, for example, an adjustment in your feed also has an effect. ‘

Fertility

‘And if you have a problem with, for example, the number of returnees, then you will immediately know what to do?’, One of those present asked. “That’s why you also need to have all fertility data ready,” Morillo reported.

“One has to know what the weights of the sows are, what they ate in the farrowing pen, what the temperature was in the farrowing pen, how many piglets they bred and so on. By comparing current data with previous data, you can look for a possible cause and take targeted action. ‘

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