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Jan Merks: "Animal welfare regulations are necessary to meet the needs of society"

Interview by Erminia Ciarleglio, DLG

Genetics´Added Value B.V. is a company in The Netherlands providing consultancy worldwide, especially in the field of pigs genetics, along training and management support The company combines the expertise of its founder Dr Jan Merks, with the expertise of specialists around the world.

Mr. Merks you work as an independent consultant, mostly for Chinese pig breeding companies. What are your main tasks?

This depends on the customer’s request:

  1. For some customers I have full responsibility for their pig genetics program and I direct, control and manage all genetics activities from the birth of piglets until sales including breeding value estimation (incl. genomic information). This is done daily along internet (access to customer breeding data base) and regular visits to the genetics farms in China.
  2. For other customers I help them with specific genetic questions and/or training of their staff.

Next to that I take part in (international including EU) evaluation of research projects that apply for funding or are funded.

What are your pig breeding programmes like?

The two main customers in China are both dedicated to 100% closed pig breeding for three breeds, Yorkshire, Landrace and Duroc. One customer has two GGP farms with a total of 6,000 sows in pure breeding, the other customer has two GGP farms with a total of 3,000 sows in pure breeding.

In Europe, the pig farming situation has changed due to various influences like Corona, African swine fever and increasing demands. What is your advice to pig farmers?

Due to the political and environmental situation in Europe, in coming decades pork production will decrease substantially. At the same time more pork production needs to be dedicated to European market requirements and not for export outside Europe.

The consequence is that there will be pressure on pork prices in coming years. For the long term only producers of “locally produced pork” will survive. High health status of pig farms as well as being part of a consumer dedicated production integration, will become very important competitive advantages for European pork producers.

What advice do you have for farmers on animal welfare in pig farming?

Anticipation to continuously changing animal welfare regulations is difficult but needed to come forward to societal and customers’ needs. More and more supermarkets chains will only accept pork that is produced along a gradually increasing number of animal welfare aspects.

Did you visit the trade fair EuroTier in Hanover in 2022?

Yes, I did! And it was good to visit EuroTier 2022 for two reasons:

  1. I appreciated to see the latest innovations in pig farming in Europe.
  2. I especially enjoyed meeting old friends from Europe.