Niche marketing continues to grow in Iowa and the United States as the demand for high quality pork increases. Previous research on meat quality of pork has demonstrated that purebred Berkshires have advantages over most commodity based pork. Therefore a Certified Berkshire Pork program has developed and is a vital niche market that provides economic opportunity for a growing number of producers.
This early research also documented that Berkshires had a significantly poorer feed conversion than other breeds, thus raising their cost of production.
However, several years have elapsed since this first research and while the meat quality advantages of Berkshire pork is still evident, there exists a real need to better quantify the current feed intake and fat and lean deposition of current day Berkshires.
This has become of utmost importance as the price of feed has dramatically increased in recent years.
Understanding how feed programs and growth rates affect lean and fat deposition rates, and how to use this information to lower feed costs are critical aspects to these niche programs in order to maximize profitability and quality of the Berkshire pork products marketed.
This trial demonstrated that Berkshire pigs grow as fast but consume more feed than expected from traditional commodity genetic lines, resulting in a challenging feed conversion ratio. Barrows grow faster and consumed more feed than gilts, but gilts were more efficient converting feed to gain. Seasonal feed intakes differ for both sexes. This information can be used in designing rations and feed budgeting systems that can lower the feed costs for production of Berkshire pork.
From these two trials barrows averaged an inch of backfat between 200 and 240 lb body weight whereas gilts approached this backfat depth at heavier weights, usually between 260 and 300 lb. Therefore, it appears that lean deposition rates were different between barrows and gilts, and between trials. This difference is critical when selecting animals for marketing and achieving consistency in meat quality within a marketing system. The differences between barrows and gilts indicate it may be more critical that each are fed differently in commercial production systems.