Overcoming Unique Challenges

Kiddivong Sombuntham, Natasha Freguson

“EDITOR’S NOTE: To get a completely different point of view of what factors are critical to the success of pork operations in parts of the world with very different challenges from what is seen in North America, Benchmark spoke to Kiddivong Sombuntham, Head of the Swine Division for Japfa Comfeed with swine operations in Vietnam and Natasha Ferguson, PigCHAMP technical consultant for South Africa.”

BACKGROUND: Japfa started operations with government assistance in northern Vietnam, but now is independent and has a presence south of Ho Chi Minh City. The company has swine and poultry operations, a slaughter plant and milling equipment. Many of the raw feed materials are sourced locally, although corn, soybean meal and distillers’ dried grains with solubles are imported from the United States. Kiddivong is working in Vietnam to bring Western methods and efficiency to an area of the world that is facing some interesting challenges when it comes to profitable pork production.

Natasha works for PIC South Africa (PICRSA) the franchise holder for PIC genetics in South Africa as well as the PigCHAMP distributor for Africa. PICRSA owns their own production operations which include Parent Nucleus, Sire Line Nucleus and multiplication farms. They also have a world class Gene Transfer Centre which is key for the support of their breeding programs and genetic dissemination. They started using PigCHAMP in 2010 to give their customers better reporting and help managers to make better production decisions.

BENCHMARK: What are the areas of production you feel you can improve upon the most over the next five years for your sow operation?

KIDDIVONG: The first issue is to just understand the environment. The areas we are looking to grow in have not had a very high density of pork production. So we need to make sure there is a good water supply and understand the local climate conditions that will impact production. We also need to understand our supply chain for raw materials, what can be sourced locally and what can’t.

NATASHA: South African producers are increasing their output and efficiencies at a very healthy rate. At the moment our total industry is increasing by 0.5PSY. We are fortunate that the Republic of South Africa (RSA) is a very healthy country for pig farming as we are free of PRRS, Aujeskeys, PEDV and others. Although farm output is improving well, we still don’t have units producing constantly at 30PSY. This is the area where most progress will be made in the next 5 years. Better understanding of optimal sow condition and feed intake, together with increased connectivity with our global genetic nucleus herds, will drive this improvement. When talking about improvements, I think we are improving each year as we are making use of the latest technology and the leading Pig Production Software Program, and one of the key factors that makes us different from most countries is the fact that we have Study Groups in each Province throughout the year, where farmers are dedicated to helping in areas that other farms are struggling with. At these study groups a lot of discussions are directed to the mutual strive to get their production up to 30 piglets/ per sow/per year. We also have several functions throughout the year where we invite speakers to share their insight on how to improve production, which are definitely made use of. From a Managements point of view, we are World-Class because no matter what obstacles we face at the moment, we are continuing to focus

swine operation

BENCHMARK: What other disadvantages or obstacles do you see for pork producers in your country that will need to be overcome in order to be as productive as the top producing countries?

KIDDIVONG: First is the high cost of feed. Most of our feed needs to be imported which puts us at a disadvantage. We also have a higher death loss and lower pigs per litter than other areas which makes it difficult to be profitable. Because most of our market is made up of small operations, we do not have good uniformity and consistency in quality. Between 60 and 70% of our production still comes from the back yards of small farms. Vietnam has the third largest breeding herd in the world (behind China and the United States), but we only rank 7th in total tons of pork produced. That shows how far behind we are other countries in terms of efficiency.

NATASHA: For me it is genetic connectivity. We have to be plugged into the best possible pool of genetics. The rate of genetic improvement at PIC has never been faster and genetic dissemination to our RSA herds and customers are crucial. Closed borders and exotic diseases are a huge obstacle and risk.

BENCHMARK: Are there external factors that impact the ability to grow pork production in your country?

KIDDIVONG: The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) should benefit Vietnam as a whole, but it will probably put our livestock industries at a disadvantage until we can become more competitive. Thailand has a much lower cost of production than we do and unless we can produce pork more economically, cheap pork imports will hurt our ability to grow and prosper.

NATASHA: Currently South Africa is experiencing the worst drought in years, and this contributes to many aspects, such as feed shortages with the consequential rise in feed prices. With this obstacle it just emphasizes the importance of using genetics with the best possible feed conversion ratio (FCRs). Pork consumption in RSA is a very low 4kg to 5kg per capita.

This is basically because of cultural differences and religious beliefs. Our industry organizations are working very hard on consumer education and promotions to increase consumption and production of pork.

BENCHMARK: What needs to happen for Vietnam (South Africa) to become more competitive over the next 3-5 years?

KIDDIVONG: We definitely need to improve our biosecurity and meat quality. We need to move to larger, professionally run farms and use better genetics. The Japfa Group has excellent skills in producing feed if we can source ingredients at a reasonable cost. Vietnam has a good climate for porkproduction and pork is a preferred protein source for the population. The market for us is growing… we just need tomake sure we can provide a good quality product at a good price.

NATASHA: Genetic connectivity to global GN herds need to improve. Biosecurity is one area where a lot of farms can improve upon, as this will lower the risk of different diseases being spread. PICRSA has the highest standards when it comes to biosecurity, and this contributes to the reason we are still continuing to deliver the best genetically enhanced gilts and boars. Our industry is in a period of change. We will see more consolidation in the near future as small piggeries close down and larger producers become even larger. These larger producers own economy of scale and invest in new housing and technology, which increases competitiveness. We will soon have a number of producers reaching and exceeding 30PSY.

- Kiddivong Sombuntham, Natasha Freguson