Feature: A story of babes
Davao City (19 June) -- Movies parade before our eyes as we sit leisurely in the theater. We hardly know, or even care at all about the planning, research, preparations, budgets and manpower involved in their production. Only the end product matters, and the satisfaction we get for the good bucks we paid.
So it is with pigs. That good meat on our dinner table, whether as "lechon," delicious pot roast, or "adobo" is all that matters. If it's good to the eyes, nose and palate, then it must come from good stock.
That good stock, however, is no mere accident or coincidence. Rather, it's a product of years of planning, research, testing and more testing, until the desired results are met and confirmed by satisfied clients.
Such is the focus of the breeder farms and growing-finishing farms of Pilmico Animal Nutrition, an Aboitiz company, in Capas, Tarlac. Spread throughout an aggregate of over 64.7 hectares in Capas, Tarlac, the farms are committed to be their clients' Partners for Growth by guaranteeing better quality meat.
Presently, the breeder farms house110 boars. Since the best must come from no less, the farms hold purebreed and crossbred boars. The original Yorkshire, Large White, Landrace breeder stocks came from the United States. Succeeding genetic infusions to maintain the purebreeds came from UK, Germany and Spain. Pietrain came in later also coming from UK, Germany and Spain. All intimidatingly big and long, the boars are heavy too, ranging from 200 to 350 kilos each.
The breeding (breeder farm) operations are complex and all encompassing, thus including sections each for lactation, nursery, breeding/gestation and gilt development. While we generally call the young ones "piglets," regardless of age, the breeding industry distinguishes between the "sucklings" (1-24 days old), "weanlings" (25-30 days old) and feeder pigs (65-75 days old).
Breeding operations are serious business, with nothing left to chance. For instance, all breeders have individual IDs pinned to their ears. The figures written there show date of birth, parentage and breed.
Breeding is done by artificial insemination. Boars are generally useful for up to 3 to 4 years of age. Senior boars can ejaculate twice per week, yielding about 300 ? 500 ml per collection. Junior boars begin with once a week, giving about 200 ml. Whichever the age, all young boars are trained to mount a blue dummy to stimulate ejaculation. After 2 to 3 weeks, they can be left on their own in mounting the dummy.
The boars' concentrates are then collected, evaluated, processed, and stored at the Artificial Insemination (A.I.) Center. The spectrophotometer equipment can will quantify the density. Extra care is exercised to shield the concentrates, because these could die or weaken from exposure to sunlight, sudden changes in temperature and even the mineral residue of tap water in a beaker or flask. One ejaculation, after processing, is enough to inseminate 15 female breeders.
"A.I." is definitely the preferred method. Commercial operations can have a ratio of 1 boar for every 80 to 100 sows. Breeding through the natural process would decrease the ratio to 1 boar for every 17 sows.
About 8 months after birth, female pigs are ready for breeding. They are then inseminated with the boars' processed ejaculate. Contrary to usual belief, one insemination is no certainty for a sow's farrowing. Thus, a "heat detection crew" monitors the sow's post-insemination behavior from 15 to 18 days. If insemination is not fruitful, the sow gets 2-3 more inseminations.
While pig raising is associated with foul-smelling pens and waste strewn all over the area, such does not describe Pilmico's farms. With slatted floors and flushpits underneath, the pens remain clean without washing. The rooms are "air-conditioned", their temperature kept consistent by a tunnel ventilation with evaporative cooling system. Feeding is on-time through an automated feed distribution system.
Moreover, stocking density in the pens is strictly followed: 4 square feet per head in the nursery and 10.5 square feet per head in the growing-finishing pens.
Each sow can farrow for a maximum of 8 times, at an average of roughly twice a year. Three to four days before giving birth, she is transferred to any of the lactation barns, to a bigger pen to accommodate her and the forthcoming babes. Normally, each sow at Pilmico gives a litter of 11 piglets, as compared to the industry average of 9. Yields are higher for sows bred during the cold months of December to February.
At the gestation section, each sow has a pen measuring 2 feet wide and 2.1 meters long, purposely to regulate movement and thus, protect the pregnancy.
Waste water is pumped out to sugar canes during the dry season. All wastes go to the biodigester for treatment, where microbial action takes place to convert the wastes into biogas gas which is mostly methane. This two-in-one approach, addresses the power needs of the plant, thus reducing the use of diesel.
And yes, it's true that at the farms, no visitor goes in without taking a full shower and no request for exemption is heard. Deemed the carrier of diseases and infections in such farms, man must comply with the strict biosecurity measures. By all means and at all costs, only the babes matter. (Aboitiz) [top]