Ag Journal – Saving the Swine Population

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LUBBOCK, Texas – A disease known as African swine fever has ravaged the Chinese pork market causing the country to euthanize half of their swine population last year.

The disease is much like Ebola, which causes a rapid fever and death within a few days.

As soon as the first pigs on a farm have the symptoms all the pigs on that farm are euthanized because ultimately they are going to suffer and die.

When African swine fever hits a country or region, the country stops all transport of animals in an attempt to stop it from spreading. Farms can no longer bring in any more boars or sows.

In one year the pork supply dropped 25 percent placing a huge demand for China where half of the swine population in the world comes from.

The US, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Brazil, are all countries that produce more pork than their people can consume creating an excess for export. During the tariffs, China bought pork from Europe or Brazil instead of the US.

“That permanently raised the price of pigs around the world, everywhere except the USA, because of those tariffs,” said Dr. John McGlone of Texas Tech University Department of Animal & Food Sciences.

Because US farmers lost the Chinese market, pork remained in the US which created oversupply driving prices very low. 

“When they stopped the transport of males and females. They had to breed, the herd from within the herd and they didn’t have any boars,” Professor McGlone said. “So, the pheromone that we discovered and patented is useful in getting animals to breed without the presence of a boar.”

BoarBetter was the product that was invented by Professor McGlone which consists of three molecules that work as a pheromone that is sprayed during insemination.

It was believed in the pig industry that you have to have the male standing in front of the female when she’s inseminated otherwise she won’t stand.

The research that Professor McGlone and his students conducted provided different results.

“We looked at publications for other species we learned that some pheromones have more than one molecule,” said Professor McGlone. “We figured out what molecules were unique in the bore. And it turns out there are three molecules necessary not one. When you put all three together you get the full behavioral response.”

Sals have a relatively short gestation period producing two and a half liters a year which will vary from 5 to 20 pigs per litter.

If you were to spray BoarBetter while the boar is there, then you get an even bigger response in the liter. When the pharmone is used instead of the boar, liter production remains average.

BoarBetter has been in the market for a year in the United States has been out just a few months in China.

“You have to get beyond a lot of skepticism,” said Professor McGlone. “You know you have something. It may take a while to get it on the market but you have something that will be helpful to pig farmers and to the consumer because ultimately it is going to lower the price of food.”

African swine fever is not currently found in the United States and does not affect people if they consume the meat. In the event the disease makes its way into the US, the product that may help restore the pig population is one that was discovered at Texas Tech University. 

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