Intensive selection by breeding companies for prolificacy in their breeding programs has led to a significant increase of litter size. Recently, the financial benefit of improved bir th and weaning weight has resulted in them becoming important measured traits in the maternal line index.

Large litters result in more competition for teat space. Piglet viability, survival and growth is dependent on birth weight, colostrum access and milk intake.A sow’s capacity to produce milk varies during lactation. Milk production is a complex process; however it is a heritable trait. Hermitage farms in Ireland have weighed in excess of 6,000 litters and have demonstrated the high potential in milk output by measuring litter weight at weaning.Top weights recorded are 140Kgs litter weight at 27 days of age.

As a greater number of piglets are born alive, there is larger variation in birth weights.Variation in piglet weaning weight results in increased variation throughout the pig’s life. Recent work at Hermitage has shown a 1kg difference at weaning can result in a 5kg difference at slaughter giving an economic advantage of £2.50 per finished pig.

The results from this work have demonstrated that there is a significant variation in the weaning weight output of Maternal Line sows. Sows producing heavier litters at weaning are profitable for two reasons:

1. A heavier piglet at weaning is better prepared to deal with various challenges at weaning.These heavier weaned pigs achieve slaughter weight more efficiently and economically, producing the ‘Full Value’ pig.

2.Sows producing heavier pigs at weaning have an increased feed intake and better feed conversion ratio of feed intake to piglet gain, which creates a more economical and profitable lactating sow.



Litter weight at weaning is a means of selecting for high milk yield (a heritable trait); it has a heritability of approximately 20%.This means that when a sow has an advantage in their phenotype for litter weaning weight, approximately 20% of that difference is due to genetics and 80% due to non-genetic/environmental factors (days in lactation, no of pigs weaned, room temperature, nutrition, feeding system, management, health). Since January 2014 Hermitage Breeding Units have weighed more than 6,000 Landrace and Large White litters at weaning.This data is incorporated into the Hermitage BreedDirect BLUP system with a respective BreedingValue produced.This project led to Hermitage developing the MLI2; Litter Weight at Weaning. Hermitage clients can select Dam Line boars from the AI studs with high breeding value for milking ability. PIC-Hermitage Maternal Line MLI2 boars at AI are selected from high index, high milking, high litter weight dams.

PIC and Hermitage understand that some farms want to focus on improving litter size as a first priority, while other farms are now interested in the weaning weight of the litter as they are satisfied with the number born alive. PIC and Hermitage can facilitate this option for its customers by using the MLI 2 index with a higher emphasis on litter weaning weight.

Dr Patrick Varley, Ph.D. Hermitage Technical Expert


Feed is the major cost associated with the growing pig. Efficient feed utilisation is vital while maximising nutritional value and price is very important. Both PIC and Hermitage have been testing and selecting for FCR for the past 30 years; and Hermitage now have the capacity to individually measure FCR on approximately 5000 pigs per year between its 2 nucleus units, Freneystown and Muckalee, located in Kilkenny, Ireland.
Pigs are individually tested from 58kg bodyweight to 110kg bodyweight. Each pig has a uniquely coded ear transponder which is inserted in the pig at the start of the test period. Pigs are typically stocked at 15 pigs per pen and fed a pelleted commercial finisher diet ad lib; each time the pig visits the feeder, feed intake is recoded. Pigs are weighted at the start of the test period and at the end of the test period and in combination with the feed intake data, the FCR is calculated.
FCR has a heritability of 30%, meaning that 30% is controlled by the genes inherited from the parents and 70% by all the non-genetic/environmental factors (room temperature, nutrition, feeding system, management, health). BLUP (Best Linear Unbiased Prediction) is used to separate the various components of the phenotype and is the most accurate method to estimate an animal’s genetic merit. This genetic merit is called the Estimated Breeding Value (EBV) and it describes how much genetic superiority or inferiority is expected to be passed on to the progeny of an animal.The EBV for FCR is then used to construct the Maternal orTerminal index along with the other weighting of economic importance.

The economic importance of improving FCR

• +/- 0.1 in F.C.E. is equal to +/- 100g of feed used per kg live weight gained.

• 40 – 110kg is 70kg x 100g feed which is 7kg feed/pig 70kg × 0.1kg = 7kg.

• Every 0.1 improvement in F.C.E is worth £1.47/pig (7kg/1000kg)
× £210 ton = £1.47.

• The range in F.C.E. from 40 – 110kg on commercial farms varies greatly from 2.4 – 2.9.This equates to 0.5 F.C.E or 500g of feed per kg live weight gain: costs £7.33/pig.

Hermitage FCR testing last 12 months

The table below outlines the number of pigs tested (from 60 to 110kg bodyweight) in Hermitage nucleus farms in the last 12 months.The genetic potential using Hermitage Genetics for pigs from 40 – 110kg, is less than 2.4:1 FCR.


New collaboration between Hermitage and PIC brings many advantages for our customers. Over recent years PIC has developed a practical library of useful Technical Manuals which are readily available for access on the following PIC UK website: gb.pic.com

These Technical Manuals were originally developed in North America.They are constantly being reviewed and updated as the considerable annual R&D investment improves our knowledge of how to maximise productivity from our animals and farms. For the convenience of our European customers, the information within is presented in both imperial and metric form.

The following Technical Manual titles are readily available on the website:

• Wean to Finish Manual
• Sow and Gilt Management Manual • PIC Boar Stud Management Manual • Nutrition Manual

Under the Resources banner of the website, you can also find brochures on PIC products and programmes including:

• Sire Lines
• Maternal Lines
• Health - The PIC Health Programme -

Five Points of Focus

  • -  Biosecurity and protection of

    your farm

  • -  Health surveillance/ monitoring

  • -  Communication- relationship

    between producers and vets

  • -  Animal Welfare

  • -  Contingency Plans

    The specialist responsible for Technical Service support in Ireland and the UK is Sebastian Casiro. Sebastian has recently relocated to the UK from Argentina. He can assist producers with any queries relating to production personally and also with some of the technical specialists within the PIC global network.


Craig Lewis & The Global Product Development Team

In 2013, PIC was the first pig genetics company to utilize tens of thousands of genotypes to increase annual genetic improvement across all lines and traits. This new way of selection, Relationship Based Genomic Selection, utilised their repository of millions of pedigrees and traits along with the new genotypes to improve all lines and all traits faster than ever before. Now almost four years into this process there is clear evidence of historically unprecedented genetic trends at commercial pig level.

This genomics program works with the vast database of unique traits. In addition

to unique traits such as individual piglet birth weight, they will collect growth, robustness, primal yield, and meat quality traits on over 250,000 commercially pedigreed pigs composed of full-program PIC maternal and terminal genetics per year.Through this program every elite sire that impacts the global PIC genetic improvement program will be tested.

PIC believe these programs are creating a sustainable pipeline of elite genetics for their customers and continue to re-invest in the next wave of technologies that will allow customers to expand their competitive advantage.

Sequencing the Genome

The genome of the domestic pig has around 2.5 billion nucleotides, similar in size to humans.Today, PIC captures a small portion of the sequence (around 80,000 locations) in their genetic improvement program. Every young boar and its dam produced in PIC elite genetic farms are genotyped with this platform. However, if full sequence information were available it could increase genetic improvement at even a faster rate.

In November 2015, PIC embarked on a collaboration with the Roslin Institute to fully sequence the genome of over 14,000 PIC animals.These animals represent all terminal and maternal lines in the PIC gene bank with corresponding economically important performance data, which drive today’s genetic improvement program.

There are numerous exciting possibilities with this project. At a minimum they will be able to further enhance benefits in accuracy of Relationship Based Genomic Selection by having all genome sequence information possible from any one animal. Other possibilities include the identification of resistance genes for diseases that challenge our industry.The findings will also be used to further understand new areas of epigenetics as well as maximizing the combining ability of specific genotypes for PIC commercial products. By re-investing in the future of genetic improvement in this multi-million dollar project, will deliver the fastest genetic improvement to customers in the history of PIC.


At PIC, everything we do is focused on making our customers more successful. Therefore, we invest in genetics, supply, health, and services.

Superior Genetics

PIC’s genetic program is driving the fastest genetic improvement in the industry – and it is accelerating.

  • PIC was the first to introduce single step genomics thereby accelerating genetic gain by more than 35%.

  • We are improving selection accuracy by genotyping each nucleus male and female and fully sequencing more pigs than all our competitors combined.

  • We test over 250,000 pigs each year in our Genetic Nucleus and GN cross bred program which gives us more information to develop pigs that work in your system.

    We select to maximize the total economic potential which translates into differentiating products.

• PIC’s terminal sires maximize profitability for producers. We select for efficient throughput, sur vivability and robustness, and carcass value and meat quality. We have a perfect fit for each production system.

• Camborough® sows are outstanding mothers - producing robust, efficient and fast-growing pigs and the most total pounds of pork per sow lifetime.

And you can see the results: a pig with 100% PIC genetics produced this year creates £3.10 more value than a pig produced last year.

Reliable Supply

Today, PIC has the largest elite animal populations and we are strengthening our supply chain to improve quality, availability, and reliability for producers.

• We are expanding our boar mother populations so we can offer a more premium boar from our Profit Plus and GN cross breed programs.

• We are adding elite farms and boar studs to improve reliability of supply.

• We are strengthening our semen quality assurance program.

Robust Health

For 40 years, PIC has pioneered the development of health practices that are now common in the industry.

• Examples include: age segregation in production flows and disease elimination strategies for PEDv, PRRSv, Mycoplasma, and FMD.

We continue to lead the industry by developing innovative solutions to protect the health of our multiplication system and our customers’ herds.

• We continue to invest in people, health surveillance strategies, and communication with our customers.

Unrivalled Support

Through personal relationships with PIC Account Managers and Customer Service coupled with the PIC Genetic Services and Technical Ser vices Team, we help you realize the genetic potential of your herd

• We bring you industry experts on genetics, reproduction, wean-to-finish, nutrition, and meat quality

• We support customers with proprietary genetic management tools to minimize lag and maximize value.

• We offer detailed product manuals that describe the feed and production specifications for your PIC pigs.

• You can get access to our latest tools, such as our reproduction assessment PIC© Pro100, to help identify improvement opportunities.

• We help you realise maximum value from our genetics on your unit.


The first of April 2017 marked a major milestone in the history of Hermitage and the Pig Improvement Company (PIC).We entered into a strategic, long-term partnership with the ambition to accelerate genetic improvement and make pig producers in Europe and beyond more successful.The partnership combines the strength of PIC’s genetic improvement approach and Hermitage’s operational excellence in running an end- to-end supply chain.

PIC will take on the responsibility for genetic improvement.The combined PIC- Hermitage pure line population gives us greater genetic diversity which is an important lever for genetic improvement. PIC will apply its leading science and technology platform to the germplasm and both PIC and Hermitage customers will benefit from that. For example, in 2013 PIC was the first swine genetics company to use single step genomics in their breeding program which resulted in an acceleration of genetic gain by more than 35%. In addition the Hermitage customers will get access to the technical know-how from PIC to help them get the most out of their pigs. PIC continues to invest in our genetics, supply chain, and technical support to create more value for our customers. Our motto is “Never Stop Improving”.

Hermitage takes on distribution and supply chain roles in the partnership.The quality and customer-oriented approach of the Hermitage supply chain will further strengthen the support for pig producers.

• First, Hermitage will continue to serve customers in the UK and Ireland and other agreed markets and build on the long term relationships that had been established.

• Second, Hermitage will manage the combined PIC-Hermitage boar stud networks in the UK, Ireland, and Italy.

• Third, Hermitage will serve as a nucleus in the PIC global network.

In the initial months since the establishment of our partnership, we have focused on a seamless transition for our customers.While we integrate our lines and our supply chains, we will continue to communicate with producers and business partners about the progress we are making and how this benefits you.
At PIC, we are excited about the new partnership with Hermitage. In the end we want to create a better pig every day, get that to you in a bio-secure and reliable way, and help you realize the genetic potential in your farm. Our overall goal is to make you more successful and we believe we can do that together with Hermitage.


Hermitage Genetics is expanding its genetic production base in Russia through a new partnership with SK Kamenka Ltd. (CX KAMEHKA) which will entail the stocking of a new ‘state of the art’ 2,600 sow Genetic Nucleus in the Voronezh region, 650 km south of Moscow. This will increase the Hermitage Genetic Nucleus herd size in Russia to 3,700 sows when added to the existing established partnership with ZAO Shuvalovo –Sloboda 1,100 sow Nucleus in Vologda, 450 km North of Moscow. The new site will commence accepting breeding stock in early spring 2017 from the Sloboda Nucleus. Demand in the Russian Federation is high for breeding stock of high genetic merit and health status for the stocking of new federal and regional supported agricultural swine complexes in a bid to reach ‘self-sufficiency’ in pork production by 2020.

30TH September 2016- Embassy of Ireland Moscow– Both companies were invited to take part in an official contract signing ceremony in the embassy hosted by Ambassador Adrian McDaid. The signing ceremony and dinner was attended by representatives from both companies, along with representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland Moscow offices.

About SK Kamenka Ltd.

This vertically integrated company owns a pig slaughter and meat processing plant in Bobrov, the rich ‘black soil’ Voronezh region which slaughters more than 1 million pigs annually. They presently have two relatively new commercial sow farms totalling 5,000 sows with plans to increase their commercial sow base in the region to 40,000 sows in the coming years, thereby securing a large percentage of the animals required to maintain homogenous supply for the meat plant.




The range in F.C.E. from 40 – 110kg on commercial farms varies greatly from 2.4 – 2.9. This equates to 0.5 F.C.E or 500g of feed per kg live weight gain: costs €9/pig.

Hermitage Genetics have selected for F.C.E for 30 years and in the past 2 years more than 10,000 individual pigs have been tested for F.C.E. The average F.C.E. of these 10,000 pigs is 2.42 (58 – 105kg) which include sireline and damline boars and gilts.

The genetic potential using Hermitage Genetics for pigs from 40 – 110kg, is less than 2.5:1 F.C.E.

Scope for improvement for F.C.E comes from  A) Environment,   B) Nutrition,   C) Health and   D) Genetics.

A. Environment
We believe there are three important areas under this heading:

(i) Type of Feeding System
Trials on Hermitage farms have compared two types of feeding system; probe wet fed vs ad-lib wet-dry. Having repeated trials three times with similar findings, the wet dry system outperformed the probe wet fed by 0.16 F.C.E.

Another interesting finding is that mortality on the wet/dry feeders is running below 0.5%; compared to probe wet feeding where the mortality/pull-outs are +2% due to significantly higher injuries.

Probe wet feeding may be beneficial if a farm has a supply of a low priced liquid by-product. Hermitage has not enough detailed data to comment on long trough wet feed systems.

(ii) Room Temperature
Hermitage Farms have excellent temperature control technologies; however the finishing rooms do not have supplementary heat in the winter time and therefore the room temperatures can drop back to 20°C in cold days and nights. The significance of the colder months can be seen on the average monthly F.C.E. reports over the past two years. We believe the optimum temperature for finisher pigs to be 23°C and we estimate from our data that each drop of -2°C will cost 0.1 in F.C.E.!
We are continually monitoring the effects of room temperature on F.C.E.

(iii) Pen Design, access to feeder space/pig.
Optimum Space per Finish Pig is .85m².
Distance to Feeder – Hermitage suggest not more than 4 meters from pig to feeder.

B. Nutrition
Nutritional requirements are outlined in the ‘’Feeding Hermitage Genetics Guidelines” and attention should be given to quality of cereals used.

C. Health
Maintaining a stable health status is essential in this area. Where virus/bacterial problems exist, it is critical to implement a vaccine programme; e.g. pneumonia can affect F.C.E by 300g of feed per kg live weight gain!!

D. Genetics
Hermitage Genetics is one of the few breeding companies who are individually testing its replacement females (all breeds maternal and terminal). All Hermitage AI boars are selected for less than 2.2 F.C.E. from 60 – 110 kgs. Hermitage has seen a 0.1 improvement over the last two years by selecting replacement gilts with a known F.C.E.
Boars convert their feed at 0.2 better than gilts. This equates to 14kg of finish feed at 27c/kg = €3.78 benefit per boar vs gilt (40-110kg).

In conclusion, all finishing farms should target to have finishing F.C.E. below 2.5 from 40 – 110kgs.

UK AI Order Line: 08009 177302
IRL AI Order Line: +353(0) 56 777 0011
Visit: Hermitage