Improvest®: The next Paylean? By: Brandi Buzzard, March 15th 2012
In over sixty countries worldwide, pork producers are taking advantage of some of the most extraordinary technology to be introduced to the industry. Improvest®, a product of Pfizer Animal Health, is an immunological alternative to physical castration of boar pigs. It creatively uses the pig’s own immune system to reduce the two main boar taint causing compounds in pork, skatole and androstenone. In two doses, Improvest® eliminates the risk of boar taint and allows the boar to retain its premium growth capabilities.
Many producers have asked the question, “What is the point of adopting this technology when physical castration is effective?” Most importantly, immunocastrates are highly feed efficient. Studies by Dunshea et al. (2001) showed that immunocastrates, over their lifetime, are significantly more feed efficient than physical castrates and even boars. Additionally, a review by McKeith et al (2009) showed an average increase in lean meat around 4.6% in immunocastrates versus their physically castrated counterparts. Furthermore, Silveira and Poleze (2009) found significantly greater amounts of muscle in such valuable primal cuts as the loin, ham and tenderloin. As feed and pork prices continue to increase, increased lean meat yield and improved feed efficiency are most certainly drivers for adopting Improvest® – especially since pork is the number one meat of choice worldwide.
Across the pond, animal welfare drivers have caused producers to adopt this innovative technology. In some areas of the EU, such as the UK and Ireland, physical castration is effectively banned and therefore producers have started to to utilize Improvest®. While the United States has not yet come under pressure from animal rights extremist groups to prohibit castration, is it not far-fetched to assume that those demands could be made in the future. Through the use of Improvest®, producers can attest that they are providing the utmost level of animal care and husbandry by avoiding surgical castration.
Of course, there are concerns with any new product; humans are creatures of habit and as such we are hesitant to adopt change. Consumers need to be assured that Improvest® treated pork is safe for their family dinner table, good for the environment and upholds quality animal care. Reassurance can be found in the fact that the use of Improvest® on ½ of the U.S.’ male pigs would result in a decrease of CO2 that is equivalent of removing 130,000 cars from the road per year. It’s hard to argue with those numbers.
While the efficacy of Improvest® has been widely praised, there is some concern at the packer end towards the amount of fat on carcass bellies. Since immunocastrates are leaner than physically castrated pigs there has been an increase in research evaluating the time until slaughter after the second injection, which may lead to more desirable fat content in the belly via a later slaughter date.
Whether or not you choose to adopt Improvest® is your choice; however, U.S. producers who wish to remain at the forefront of world pork production may want to take note of the first-class technologies available to them in today’s industry.
Learn more about Brandi:
Brandi Buzzard is a native of Colony, KS where she grew up rodeoing and showing livestock with her family. A passionate agriculture advocate, she authors a blog about current industry issues and contributes to the NCBA YPC and Food For Thought blogs. She attended Kansas State University where she earned her B.S. in Animal Sciences and Agriculture Economics and is continuing her education there while pursuing a M.S. in Animal Behavior, Well-Being and Health.
Brandi is active in a variety of agriculture organizations including the Kansas Livestock Association, the National Pork Board’s Operation Main Street, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Young Producer’s Council and Food For Thought. Outside of her professional interests she enjoys spending time with her husband and family, rodeoing, working on the farm and globetrotting.
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