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Gene+ opens the largest boar testing center in Europe

With 120 Nedap Pig Performance Testing Stations, Gene+ improves boars’ genetic progress

Today we are in Azay sur Indre, near Tours in France. With 120 Nedap Pig Performance Stations, Gene+ improves the genetic progress of boars, especially with regard to feed efficiency. In this charming little French village, we are at the opening of the largest boar testing center in Europe. In pig breeding, growth and feed conversion are the most important selection criteria. But how do you objectively determine which breeding lines produce the best pigs?


“Nedap pig performance testing provides us a solid  foundation that has proven its value over many years.”


The health of our animals is extremely important

Michel Sourdioux, CEO of Gene+, explains how. "We were looking for a system that could control the feed consumed by each animal, while monitoring each animal's status during the fattening period. We tested various types of systems and chose the pig performance testing station (PPT) because it is not only simple to use, but also very easy to clean. Both the health of the animal and the genetic aspect are extremely important to us. We asked Nedap to adapt the system to be even easier to clean. Another reason is the use of the data, which is easily processed. In addition, it is better if the data is generated by the system itself, rather than importing it from other systems. All the animals can be fed ad libitum, which was very important for us as well. After testing the Nedap system for three batches, we saw that the results were good," says Michel. "The system does have a weak point, however. The way each pig is fed is less accurate than in some other systems, because the feed trough has no closing door. That does have the benefit of allowing the animals to eat ad libitum, so for our purposes the weak point is actually an advantage," he adds smiling.


Establishing an optimal boar line

Michel joined Gene+ in 2002 after working as a genetics professor. "As breeders, it is our primary objective to establish an optimal boar line. Nedap pig performance testing provides us a solid foundation that has proven its value over many years,” says Michel. “Gene+ aims for classification of the optimal genetic lines in order to identify those pigs that are the most efficient feed consumers,” he explains.


“With pig performance testing, Nedap offers us robust systems with excellent electronics.”


“A small improvement in feed efficiency has a tremendous impact”

The pig performance testing station registers exactly how many grams of feed individual pigs eat and how fast they grow. Feed costs constitute approximately 70 percent of all pig farming costs. “That means that a small improvement in feed efficiency has a tremendous impact on the company’s bottom line,” says Michel. The collected feed intake and weight data are securely processed within the Nedap Platform for pig management and are immediately available online. Michel explains: “This means that we gain immediate insight into the differences in feed intake and growth between individual pigs. We can select earlier, based on reliable data. The ability to continuously optimize the quality of our genetics is our main goal.” When it comes to feed intake, how many times they enter the PPT for eating depends on the kind of breed. Michel says: “How many times a day a breed eats depends on their behavior. Some eat between 10 and 20 times. Others eat from 40 up to 50 times a day, but they eat less each time.”



Data protection

The Azay sur Indre project holds 1848 places for fattening pigs consisting of 11 compartments of 168 places. The 11 compartments have 12 pens that hold 14 pigs each. In total, 120 Nedap pig performance testing stations are used to collect performance data. A fully automated system, the Nedap PPT collects individual data on feed intake and weight development 24/7. The system consists of two parts: a feed trough with a weighing unit for the feed and a separate weighing unit for the pig. The pig-weighing platform can be easily adapted to the pig’s size. The system has enough capacity for 14 pigs to feed without any restrictions. I-Tek was responsible for building the new stalls. Aco Funki, Nedap dealer in France, delivered and installed the feeding stations.


Selecting pigs for breeding based on feed conversion ratio

Gene+ obtains fast and clear insight into boar-sow combinations that lead to the most feed-efficient pigs. Why choose Nedap? Michel explains: “Data registration is highly accurate. It is user friendly, safely stores information, continuously monitors the specific weight of the feed and automatically stops when there is no feed. The ability to feed ad libitum is also an important feature for us.” The Gene+ boar testing center was built to test boars from across France to be selected for breeding. Gene+ has 6 different breeds, including sire lines Pietrain, Duroc, Musclor and dam lines Large White, Landrace, Tai Zumu. The boars come from 10 farms all over France with equal health status every 3 weeks. Security is key to guaranteeing a high health level of breeding stock to the pig farmers using Gene+ products in order to perpetuate herd life and express the full genetic potential of the animals.


The best boars are sent to artificial  insemination partners

With 336 places in 24 pens, 336 piglets stay in quarantine for 5 weeks. Depending on the breed, the boars are sent to the fattening stall at between 25-35 kilos. After testing, they are sent to the preparation stalls at 110 kilos for a few days. In the final stage, the pigs are sent to the artificial insemination boar center, are slaughtered, or are sold directly to farmers. With its insemination partners, Gene+ permanently provides boars to the AI centers. Semen doses from Gene+ boars are therefore available in most of the French AI centers as well as in Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Quebec. Gene+ delivers a potential of 1,500,000 doses per year. Laboratories of Gene+’s primary AI partners are specially dedicated to frozen semen, offering the possibility to easily export doses from selection boars.


 “We can see how much feed the pigs eat and how many grams they grow from day to day, and can get all sorts of information from that."


Rapid insight into differences in performance results in objective selection

“We can see how much feed the pigs eat and how many grams they grow from day to day. We thus remain constantly informed during the growth phase, and can get all sorts of information from that. Perhaps, at a later stage, we will be able to tailor the feed type to each breed,” says Michel. “But for now, selecting for feed efficiency is the most obvious application. We can quickly gain insight into opportunities for feed savings. That means we can keep selecting the best genetics. And we can make rapid progress. We also have the option of putting different feed in each pen. This way we can record the growth curve and behavior of the pig, allowing us to analyze performance,” Michel says. The pig performance testing station can be used to test different types of feed. Michel explains: “Maybe we will use this at a later stage. It is interesting for future research.”


About Gene+

Gene+ was founded in 1989 by two cooperatives, UCAGENOF (Pas de Calais) and CADS, now part of the Cooperative Agrial (Calvados), to develop hyper-prolific pig lines. Gene+ spread geographically as new members joined and as the pig breeding activity introduced new lines and established new herd facilities. The Gene+ group has around 50 employees. Only 3 of them manage this farm in Azay sur Indre. Damien Bahon is the Genetics Operations Manager and responsible for the use of boar testing stations. Guillaume Naveau is the Financial and Marketing Manager of Gene+. Gene+ offers a large choice of purebred or crossbred boars to meet the performance goals and to enable farmers to produce a pork carcass perfectly suited to their market requirements.


• 136 000 reproducers supplied in 2014 (50% abroad)

• Gene+ is the second largest breeding company in France

• Gene+ is the first French exporter of pig genetics

• Nearly 12 million pigs from Gene+ lines are slaughtered each year



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