Across China: Herbs, temperature-controlled rooms...pig breeding hogs transformation

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NANCHANG, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- Stirring Chinese medicinal herb powder into pig feed before passing it down to each shed through automatic lines, Xu Jie, head of a pig breeding farm, started his busy day.

Why do pigs need medicinal herbs?

"Proper veterinary herbal formula can help improve the immunity of pigs," said Xu, at the farm in the city of Fengcheng, east China's Jiangxi Province, which is a major pig-breeding region.

The 30-year-old farmer adds Chinese herbs to pig feed for a week every month since last December, especially in autumn and winter when temperatures are relatively low.

"Drug conditioning can influence intestinal digestion of pigs, lowering their fatality rate. This year, the survival rate of pigs in my farm has increased by about 2 percent," Xu said.

"As people place more emphasis now on food and biosafety, we farmers should continue to learn to keep up with the pace of change and upgrade in the industry," Xu said.

Herbs add 600 yuan (about 88 U.S. dollars) per tonne to the cost of feed, according to the pig farmer. "But with less use of antibiotics, we could provide consumers greener and healthier products."

Trucks full of breeding pigs leave Xu's farm after the animals have been subjected to decontamination, ultraviolet disinfection and other processes.

Xu said he plans to further try out batch breeding, deep artificial insemination and improve environment and facilities in delivery rooms for better reproductive practices for the animals.

Besides breeding techniques, the living conditions of pigs have improved remarkably in China.

"Look at this floor. It is equipped with graphene heating. We set up negative pressure air blowers to create an environment with constant temperature and reduce the morbidity rate of pigs," said Luo Yugen, a pig farmer in the city of Gaoan, Jiangxi.

"Also, with trench fans blowing ammonia gas out of our factory, there is no peculiar smell in the hog house," Luo said. "It's like living in an air-conditioned room for the animals."

New technology such as artificial intelligence and blockchain has the potential of transforming the pig-raising industry, according to a report on China's smart pig farming released by the Agricultural Information Research Institute.

In August, China's pig population rose for a seventh straight month, up 31.3 percent year on year. Sow inventory increased for 11 consecutive months, up 37 percent from a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

"We can't raise pigs based only on experience these days," said Luo, who restored the pig stock to 16,000 in only about six months after lowering the numbers to prevent the African swine fever. "It is the result of transformation and upgrade of breeding concepts and techniques."

Though the African swine fever has played havoc with pig breeding, it has also forced farmers to pay more attention to biosecurity, with some even building their own labs and inspection and quarantine rooms, according to Lan Guohua, deputy director of Gaoan's agriculture and rural affairs bureau.

"China's hog industry has ushered in a new phase of development," Lan said. Enditem

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