FEED Business Worldwide - July 2012
Hypor:  A 'balanced' and targeted approach to pig genetics 
Part of the Hendrix Genetics group, Hypor recently became the first company to offer a full genomic selection breeding program based on Genomic Breeding Values, which sets a new standard for accurate swine breeding. Luis Prieto, General Manager of Hypor Americas shares with us the company's strategies and newest developments.
What are some of the biggest problems facing swine farmers?
Uncertainty – the market is very volatile and you'd never know what is going to happen. Pig farmers are now talking about issues like hedging and future prices - the kind of issues we were not used to. They also have to learn how to market their products and how to purchase. Factors beyond control, such as exchange rates, affect production, the market and prices. Globalisation is an opportunity but is a threat as well. Border closures, for instance, affects the exporting country and are often beyond the producers' control.
Has evolving technology and market demands changed how Hypor provides solutions?  
Technology underwent a huge evolution in the last 40 years, from phenotypic selection to genomics. Our vision is to use the best technology available in order to meet market demands. Market-focus is important and we have to always listen to the market. If you don't provide the right product, you will be out of the business. For us, it's very important to be present in the large integrator market, which means focus on cost of production. We focus on the markets and segments where we think the future is.
Which trends are changing the demand for breeding stock and solutions?
Loose housing systems are one of the biggest changes that we are facing at this moment. This is a clear trend and will be compulsory in Europe from 2013. In North America, McDonald's and several retailers and restaurants expressed that they are only willing to use meat from such facilities and some pig-producing companies are trying to change to gain an advantage.  For Hypor, our product fits well with this development in the market. Our philosophy of selection has always been having a "balanced animal" which is easy to manage, more resistant, not very delicate and rustic, and these animals do well in this kind of system. The other important trend for sure is feed efficiency.  
Do swine breeding solutions vary by country or customer scale?
If you look at specific market segments, the markets are not so different. There may be niche markets in specific countries, but main players look for about the same traits for selection, with the same target of economic efficiency, especially at a time when feed is very expensive. We have decided to focus on a segment of the market which is present in several countries - large producers and integrators. These key customers are looking for the same kinds of things in different markets. As a result, we now have two dam lines but only one type of commercial sow and four boar line, which is a smaller number of lines than in the past.  
What measures are you taking to address biosecurity threats?
Basic biosecurity measures are the same in the industry, but as a breeding company, we have a higher level of biosecurity than the industry average. Although we sell animals, we do not introduce animals in our nucleus barns. Rather, we keep our populations connected via semen or embryo transfer, which are two of the safest ways of ensuring biosecurity. In addition, at Hypor, we have a global spread of production - in Canada, Europe and Asia. The strategic location of the nucleus barns allows us to export from the other countries should problems occur in one country.
What sets Hypor apart from its competitors?
We are one of the leaders in genomic selection. Since June 2012, we have successfully implemented genomic selection into our breeding program; as the first genetic company in the market to do so. We have applied it in one of our lines and we are applying it in another line shortly. Selection on Genomic Breeding Values gives us the ability to predict with far greater accuracy what the genes of each pig are and what they are worth for our breeding programs.
We think the application of this technology is going to be one of the milestones for the future. Also, we have also been offering "balanced" animals - animals that do not need a lot of antibiotics, are resistant to diseases and are uniform. These biologically balanced animals do not need a lot of external artificial health care and as a result, use of antibiotics is reduced and fewer animals are out of range due to illnesses.
Lastly, we have been the pioneer in closed-herd system and are one of the most experienced companies, with products like BioHypor and EasyHypor (simplified BioHypor). These high-technology products helped Hypor to differentiate itself in the market for sure.
What swine breeding issues is Hypor addressing?
On the dam line, I will insist on the "balanced" approach. It is important to have a reasonable number of piglets born per litter, but even more important to be able to wean them and to wean them for several cycles, having a low sow replacement rate in the farm.
This has an important economic impact on the bottom line on the dam line. Also, feed efficiency is one of the key factors to drive profitability of the business and we're extremely focused on improving feed conversion in order to transfer this advantage to our customers. A high percentage of our boar and dam line animals are tested in individual feeders during their growth/finishing period in the nucleus farms and new ways of using this information are being implemented in our breeding program.
Lastly, markets such as North America are increasing slaughter weights. Some years ago, we were talking about 110 – 115kg, now it is 130-140kg. To achieve this, you need very good growth, apart from feed efficiency. They are linked, but it is important to have both. Basically I would say balanced approach for sows, feed efficiency and growth are the three main traits.
Which markets present promising growth opportunities?
Asia as a market is growing, fuelled by population growth, increasing economic power to buy animal protein, and the shift from backyard farming systems to industrialised farms or more professional farms. As the market grows, a lot companies can also grow there. In addition, the US and Brazil are very important pig producing countries. We are starting in the US and are seeing good growth, although we have not entered Brazil yet.
Which is your most challenging market and why?
Although Europe is our market and it produces 15-20% more pork than the Europeans need, so it is the most challenging market at this moment. Europe is challenged in every field (generally financially), including pig production and competition is intense. In general, it is difficult to grow in a market that is not growing. In Asia, which is growing, companies have opportunities to grow. It is an easier market than a mature market where breeding companies are competing, the number of farmers is reduced and they are economically challenged.
How will the swine genetics industry look like in the future?
Currently, we are considered one of the four to five main players in the pig genetics market (among many others), but individual market share of these players is still relatively low due to the large number of pig breeding companies in the market. Some of these companies are more present in one country while some are more present in others. The R&D capacity of companies currently working on pig genetics will be an important factor in the industry's consolidation. Technology, as mentioned earlier, will have an important role in the future development of the products and in the consolidation in the pig industry.
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