'Internet of pigs': Cargill says modernization needed in swine industry

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 26 2023 04:29 PM | Updated as of Apr 26 2023 04:39 PM

MANILA — Modernizing production is key to the sustainable repopulation of the country's swine industry as the African Swine Fever lingers, a global food and agriculture company said on Wednesday.

Cargill Philippines Country President Sonny Catacutan said there are technologies in animal nutrition, data collection and biosecurity that could help Filipino farmers thrive despite challenges including the ASF. 

Catacutan, who is also Cargill's Managing Director for Animal Nutrition, said they will be releasing their "ASF Playbook" during the Animal Nutrition Summit and the upcoming National Hog Convention. 

He said the company will share best practices and new technologies to help farmers become more resilient. 

"It's a manual; it's a guide; it's transferring best practices to our partners for those who want to continue to produce pigs and those who want to repopulate, empower them, give them security and peace of mind for their investments that they make in their farm," Catacutan said.

He said stakeholders such as Cargill, hog producers and the government are working together to encourage hog raisers to modernize their productions and repopulate sustainably.

"We are united with the farmers in their purpose of feeding the nation and we bring our global capabilities and expertise and our tailored solutions in animal nutrition performance and health locally...at the core is modernizing the industry with digital technology, the future is here, the future is now," he added.

Included in the ASF playbook are technologies in young animal nutrition targetted for pigs in the different stages of their lives, he said. Cargill also earlier launched its new solution called Neopigg for early stage pig nutrition. 

"This will also help farmers have healthy pigs as they battle challenges inside the farm," he said. 

Catacutan said they would also share global best practices in animal disease control through up-to-date biosecurity protocols as part of the playbook. 

Cargill also has a cloud-based farm production system called Agriness to help farmers modernize farm data procession.

"In digitalizing it, helps make better, faster and well-informed decisions on how to make our farms productive...This is real technology, implemented by real people solving real problems. Digital technology is at the core of how we think our farmers can be enabled to be able to combat different challenges including ASF," Catacutan said.

Cargill Philippines Country President and Managing Director for Cargill’s Animal Nutrition Business Sonny Catacutan 
Cargill Philippines Country President and Managing Director for Cargill’s Animal Nutrition Business Sonny Catacutan 



As of March 2023, around 137 barangays in 11 regions in the country still have active ASF cases, according to the data from the Department of Agriculture.

Without a vaccine, and with the failure to identify the actual source of ASF, modernization and continued training and knowledge-sharing are key to thriving in the hog industry, National Federation of Hog Farmers Vice President Alfred Ng said.

"The virus is very resilient, it's not easy to take care of. We wanted to educate farmers, members [and] non-members to practice biosecurity. I think that's the only way that we can move forward and modernize our farming techniques and become more efficient, more productive and sustainable," he said.

Ng said a lot of farmers were also "hesitant" to repopulate due to the ASF threat. Modernization also requires more investments in building renovations, disinfection and feeds, among others.

"In order to encourage members to start the repopulation process, we continue as a Federation to tell them success stories of people that repopulated," he said.

Other hog farmer groups in the country agree that modernization could help keep production sustainable especially since ASF is still present, said Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc President Rolando "Nonon" Tambago said.

"Modern farming is, I believe, the way to go right now. While there's no available vaccine yet... modern farming using latest technology, nutrition genetics, housing, biosecurity, is the way to go to bring back the glory of the hog industry," he said. 

Despite the lingering risks, DA National Livestock Program Director Ruth Miclat-Sonaco is optimistic of the industry's recovery to pre-ASF levels.

"The Latest PSA data since Q2 2022 inventory and production are going up from the very low negative growth rate for the last 2 and half years...we are looking at the recovery of the swine industry in the next 1 to 2 years," she said.

She said the DA is focused on repopulation efforts including the Integrated National Swine Initiatives for Recovery and Expansion (INSPIRE) program that aims to assist farmers in terms of biosecure facilities, feeds and piglets. INSPIRE goes hand-in-hand with the DA's Barangay Bantay ASF program, she added. 

"We're talking about modernization, we call it the internet of pigs...We give assistance in biosecure facility, hindi na siya basta kulungan lang ng baboy. We talk about bird-proofing the facility, putting of disinfectants, fencing the facility. These [are] very basic biosecurity principles," she said. 

"While ASF is very bad for all of us, it also gave us the opportunity to reboot the industry," she added.

Sonaco said the DA is also developing alternative types of feeds that use local materials to give farmers more affordable options. 

According to the latest DA estimate, the earlier reported pork supply shortage this year is down to 18 days deficit or about 1.5 days per month as imports start coming in.


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