Simon Grey -
General Manager Russia, CIS and Europe.

Pig price in Russia is 113.50 Roubles per live kg (US$1.77). With cost of production at about 65 Roubles ($1.03) for the best producers the period of high profitability for the Russian pig industry rolls on and on. Goes to show what’s possible by restricting imports!

Just as everywhere else in the world, in Russia today, most discussion is about China and what effect the dramatic loss of pig production in China will have on the Russian market. Currently pigmeat can’t go from Russia to China as Russia is ASF positive as a country. Russia has not seen the recent rise in price seen in other countries that are exporting to China. 

Currently the Chinese are visiting Russia. This is to see how Russia has dealt with ASF.  There is talk about China accepting imports of pig meat and even breeding pigs from Russia. For sure it will need both and in very large volume.

Russia is a very big country. As a land mass it is nearly 4 times bigger than Europe. Countries in Europe that are ASF negative can export meat to China and ones that are positive can’t. There are a lot of regions in Russia that have never had ASF and others that have not had outbreaks for several years. 

In Russia ASF has been dealt with very well. Most commercial companies have looked after their own business and gone above and beyond government requirements for bio-security. ASF is actually not that contagious. The best protection is simply good bio-security and the discipline to maintain it! The structure of the industry, big fully integrated companies means there is no trade in weaned or feeder pigs. Many companies transport and kill only their own pigs. This helps keep ASF out of systems.

It seems almost impossible that the border for Russian pork from ASF free areas will be allowed into China at some point in the future. For sure this will have a positive effect on pig prices. This will not last for ever though. 

One thing people always think about when there is a shortage of meat is more sows. Building sow farms is a really slow way to get production. If you start building today you will not have extra pigs for sale for at least 1.5 years and maybe 2 years. There is an obvious and much quicker way to get more pig meat. Heavier pigs!!

There are 3 ways to get heavier pigs:

1.  Faster growth rates in existing Nursery and Finisher.

Genesus is well known to have the fastest growing pig on the market. 

2. Use Nursery and Finisher space efficiently.

Make sure occupancy is somewhere between 95% and 100% (using 0.3 m2 per pig in Nursery and 0.65m2 per pig in Finisher). Focusing on kg sold/m2 of Nursery and Finisher space helps with this. 

Genesus is also well known for having a pig that is very calm and can be grown at very high stocking rates.

I have visited many many many farms in Russia. When I talk about maximising kg sold I am often told. We have no space! Just because there are pigs in every pen does not mean the farm is full. A pen that can hold 50 finisher pigs that has 46 pigs in it has 4 empty space’s. It is only 92% full!

Another one here is the time buildings are empty for washing and disinfection. I visit many farms where washing can take days (even up to a week). If a room takes 1 person 4 working days to wash (4 X 8 hours = 32 hours) it takes 4 people 1 day (4 X 8 = 32 hours)!! Modern disinfectants have kill times measured in minutes, not hours or days!!! Empty buildings are not growing kg of pig meat. 

3. Build more finisher space, or create more space in existing Nursery and Finisher by making pens bigger.

Adding extra finisher buildings is quick (in comparison to building new sow farms, nursery and finisher). Finisher always gives the best return on investment when looking at new pig buildings.

Increasing slaughter weight from 120kg to 140kg gives you 16% more production. 

If we take official Chinese figures of a 25% reduction in sow numbers this is somewhere 10 to 12 million sow’s. In terms of global pig production this is somewhere in the region of 15% to 20%. If the rest of the world’s producers simply increased slaughter weights by 20kg a good proportion of this loss is filled.

One thing I do see in Russia is in general growth rates are lower than we see with the same pigs and health status as we see in North America. In Canada we regularly see pigs at 135kg at 165 to 170 days. On many Russian farm’s pigs will be 10kg to 20kg lighter in the same time. There are several reasons for this!

The loss of profit from lower growth rate is very significant! It is very simple math to calculate this loss!

A. Nutrition.

There is a lot of European and traditional Russian influence with nutrition. Because of the market in Europe (lean pigs and relatively expensive feed) pigs have been selected for low FCR and to be very lean. This reduces considerably feed intake. To compensate for this and to get pigs to grow, feed has to be higher density and with high levels of SID Lysine.

Russian farm historically also feed only 5 diets from weaning to finish (some only 4). This is not only expensive it also can restrict growth rate. This is simply a management issue!

Genesus fast growth comes from a high voluntary feed intake. Using European type, high lysine diets for high feed intake pigs actually reduces growth rate. Excess Lysine (protein) needs to be de-aminated. A by-product of deamination is glucose. This increases FCR and makes pigs fatter!

B. Feeder design

Again, there has been a lot of European influence with the type of feeder used on many farms in Russia. A lot are built with tube type feeders which are difficult to manage and can restrict feed intake. The alternative has been a simple dry box feeder.

A well designed wet/dry feeder is known to increase feed intake by up to 5%. More feed = faster growth rate = more kg sold!

C. Classical Swine Fever Vaccine.

This is required by law. Growing pigs are given 2 shots of a live vaccine. This vaccine is tough on pigs and really reduces growth rates. I estimate it reduces days to slaughter by between 5 and 10! 

Russia has managed ASF without a vaccine. Surely can do the same for CSF?

D. Nursery and finisher buildings much too hot.

Russian’s tend to run their nursery and finisher buildings much too hot. Anything over 23oC for pigs over 20kg reduces feed intake and therefore growth rate!

Maximising growth rate and producing heavier pigs is a no brainer under normal circumstances. If China does open its borders for Russian pig meat and the price increases as a result heavier pigs will have the same effect as planting money trees!

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This post was written by Genesus