DavsAIc: Boosting genetics for small farmers
At a time when natural mating was still the norm among backyard farmers, Nile David saw an opportunity for artificial insemination (AI) and put up a small AI farm to help small farmers boost their pig genetics. Today, David Swine AI Center Inc (DavsAIc) serves more than 6,000 hog raisers nationwide. It has been growing steadily and looking to serve an ever-growing hog industry.
After graduating from Central Luzon State University with an Animal Science degree in 1997, Mr David got acquainted with AI when he worked in a pig farm in Tarlac province. After six months, he quit his job and broached the idea of putting up a small AI farm to his family.
Starting with two boars, a Landrace and a Large White, his first customers were his neighbours, who were traditionally breeding their sows. Seeing the big difference with AI—the piglets grew faster and bigger—their customers began to spread the word.
Through word-of-mouth, the small AI farm began to make a name in pig breeding within the community. In 2005, with 10-12 boars and a growing number of clients, the David family decided to take the business to another level. Nile’s brother, Dr. Oreste David, a veterinarian who was working full time in a feed company, left his job in 2006 and joined the family business. The other five family members also left their fulltime jobs to concentrate on the budding venture while the four members who are living abroad are helping with the finances. In August 2007, David’s Swine AI Center Inc (DavsAIc), based in San Fernando, Pampanga province, became a full-pledged AI company.
Bridging the gap
The company’s main goal is to bridge the genetics gap between commercial and backyard hog raisers.
“There is a big difference between the breeds raised by commercial farms and small hog raisers. The pigs of backyard farmers are slow growers, have huge stomach, long snout and lean meat. So when they sell it to the traders, there is a difference of about Php 10/kilo body weight. Nile saw how disadvantaged the small farmers were because he saw how robust and fastgrowing the pigs were in the farm where he worked,” said Dr David.
He added that when he also worked in farms in other regions, he saw that the breeds used by small farmers “were very small. “They were only producing 70 kgs where the standard at that time was100 kgs. So our main goal was to upgrade the backyard raisers to become competitive in the market.”
Through AI, the sows they use can produce better quality offspring thanks to the better genetics from the boars used. Newborn piglets that used to weigh 0.8kg are now weighing 1.25-1.50/kg. Mortality rate is also down (from 15% pre weaning mortality average to around 11-12%), dispelling the belief that AI-bred pigs have higher mortality compared to native pigs or those produced through natural mating, said Dr David.
Initially, the company shelled out about Php 75,000 for the 3 boars and Php 150,000 to construct and equip its laboratory. They improvised on other apparatus: a prototype compound microscopewith only one eyepiece; heating pot for hot water to be used for sterilisation; and feeding bottles (for babies) to sterilise their equipment.
In 2010, they received a Php 1 Million loan grant, payable in three years, from the Department of Science and Technology. The grant was also used to upgrade their laboratory and buy the latest equipment for semen processing so that semen could last for up to five days.
Getting quality breeds
DavsAIc used to get their boars from different breeding farms, but are now relying mostly on Creekview Genetics and a few accredited swine breeder farms.
“We’ve been buying the boars from them since 2011 because we saw the disadvantage of getting boars from different farms. For instance, each farm has a different vaccination program, so we would have to adjust the vaccination of the other boars and that posed problems for us, particularly regarding biosecurity,” explained Dr David.
“For example, Creekview has four vaccination programs and the other farms have six, seven or eight vaccination programs. If we do not follow all those programs imposed by the different farms, it will affect the pig’s health. But it is difficult for us to maintain those programs. So we thought we’d just get from one source whose program we can follow, have quality breeds and whose vaccination programs fairly match ours. Creekview met those requirements,” he added.
When buying boars, they visit Creekview and select 5-month old boars. They would check the animals on their 6th month and have the boars mounted to get their semen to check the motility. Boars that pass their quality requirementsare bought but are not used until after they are vaccinated when they are 8-8.5 months.
“This is to assure that the boars are already vaccinated before we process their semen,” explained Dr David.
Creekview’s meticulous breeding standards and their being in the top three breeders in the country has convinced DavsAIc to stick with Creekview.
“When they deliver the boars, we are assured that they are performance tested because they keep records of the boar’s pedigree. Plus, our customers are satisfied with our animals breeds because what they see in the boars is exactly what they get. Our customers want less backfat, bigger pork leg, smaller head—not all breeder farm can produce that but Creekview has it. Their improved genetics has exceeded the standard 560g ADG and the piglets grow faster. So that’s a big plus for us,” said Dr David.
Production and services
DavsAIc produces an average of at least 6000 doses of semen monthly. One dose is equivalent to 100 ml and one sow is inseminated with two doses or an equivalent of 200 ml. The second dose is usually given after 12 hours when the sow is in standing heat.
Demand is high when live weight price in commercial farms reaches about Php 120/kg and in backyard around Php 110 per kilo live weight, but slows down when price is about Php 100/kg liveweight in backyard and Php 105 in commercial farm said Dr David.
DavsAIc also gives performance data about the GPs from which the boar came from to assure customers of the semen’s superior quality.
“Other farms do not offer this kind of service. They would only give the parents but not GP and other important information that the customers, I think, should have because they should know the breed’s source,” said Dr David.
The company now has 50 boars with plans to add at least five boars a month to cater to the growing demand.
“We should maintain 60 boars and have 2-3 more boars every month to serve all our customers. We also cull once monthly so we are maintaining at least 60 boars.”
Aside from Pampanga, DavsAIc also has customers from nearby provinces like Bulacan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Bataan and Zambales. In addition to their office staff in San Fernando, Pampanga, they have 10 AI technicians split their shifts servicing up to 60 customers per day in various locations daily.
For their clients in nearby provinces, they would send the semen doses through a courier package in the morning which clients would receive in the afternoon. At times, they are sent via buses and customers are informed about the bus line, number and time of arrival. The customers would then pick them up at the terminal.
DavsAIC’s 1.8-hectare boar station in Mexico, Pampanga has three building facilities with an area of 5000sqm. The buildings are 200m away from the farm’s gate to ensure biosecurity.
“We are targeting at least 100 boars and once we reach that, we will just expand into a two-site boar station within the farm so we can easily address problems or any emergencies. We hope to complete our expansion by this year or the next,” said Dr David.
They are also entertaining the idea of importing boars once they expand their facilities.
“When we were starting, we used to have six imported boars from Korea. Probably, if we expand our station next year, and there is an opportunity, we will import breeds since there is a demand.”
DavsAIC is not looking to produce their own boars anytime soon but would focus on its AI services since their customers are continuously increasing.
“Our market is 80% backyard and 20% commercial. Our backyard customers have 50-120 (from 2-150 sows) while our commercial customers have from 500 sows to more than a thousand sows). We are really enjoying our business right now because that’s what we wanted, to use AI in improving the breeds of small raisers. Aside from providing AI services, we also serve as consultants, we teach them, we conduct seminars in municipalities because we believe that customer education is important not just for the business but for the development of the swine industry,” Dr David remarked.
Boosting biosecurity and manpower
Aside from expansion, DavsAIc also plans to beef up its biosecurity efforts towards an effective disease control management.
“While we can’t prevent diseases, we can manage them and to do that, we should first ensure biosecurity. We should not just let outsiders enter the farm. The more animals, the higher the risk so we should strictly follow the biosecurity regulations and vaccination programs. It is good for us to source from one breeding farm to easily trace the pig’s health history,” explainedDr David.
The challenge in production, he said, is to be ahead of the forecast to be able to cater to more customers. To do that, they added more workers who sometimes work at 12-1 am to collect semen of a specific breed, particularly when demand is high.
While in the past, their workers used to multitask due to lack of manpower and budget, they now different departments to do specific jobs: collecting semen, processing the semen, farm duties and administrative staff.
“When we were starting, I had to do all things: collect the semen, process it in the lab and sell it to the customers. Now, we have a set of people to do specific jobs.”
The once small AI farm is now growing leaps and bounds that they are not even afraid of their bigger competitors.
“Because we started small, we do not expect to be huge right away. Our current status is due to word-of-mouth promotion of our customers. We are getting skilled workers, mostly animal science graduates who can really help our customers,” he remarked.
“Social media too has been a big help. We are using Facebook to promote and market our services and where we get instant inquiries from people who become our clients. Our customers are the ones who are posting their ‘testimonials’ on our Facebook page so it’s a good promotion for us,” he added.
The AI technology is perhaps the answer to small farmers’ need of quality breed where they will not spend much but earn better.
“AI will be the trend towards improving production, breeds and profit of a backyard raiser without spending too much. A boar costs about Php 50,000/head, but by spending just Php 800, a farmer can get the same quality of the boar through AI. A farmer can have huge savings because their sows will perform better than if they naturally-mated, and they get bigger profit. AI is here to stay and we are glad to be part of this growing trend.”MORE ABOUT US