New Topigs Norsvin Nucleus in Canada

Topigs Norsvin

Investing in genetic progress that fits future market demand

Topigs Norsvin is investing in a new nucleus in Manitoba, Canada. This new element in the breeding structure of Topigs Norsvin will be the focal point in breeding the Z-line, one of the lines of the TN70 sow. Another aspect of the plan is the modernization and upgrade of existing nucleus farms in Manitoba.

It is the biggest investment in the history of Topigs Norsvin and will lead to increased genetic progress and breeding with future animal welfare legislation in mind. We pose seven questions to Hans Olijslagers, CTO of Topigs Norsvin, about the new nucleus, the upgrade in breeding infrastructure, and the benefits these bring to
customers around the world.


What is Topigs Norsvin building in Manitoba?

Hans Olijslagers: “The investment in Canada includes the construction of a brand new nucleus for our Z-line. This Great Grandparent unit will, together with a smaller location elsewhere in Manitoba, be the top of the breeding pyramid of this line. The second part of the plan is to renovate and upgrade existing nucleus farms in Manitoba for the TN Tempo, Norsvin Duroc, and Norsvin Landrace lines.

When all building and renovation activities are completed, the nucleus population of the Z-line will be increased by 40%. The nucleus population of the Norsvin Duroc will be more than doubled. This is all part of our global breeding structure master plan. We are developing rapidly and need to align our breeding structure to the growing demand of our products.”


Why is this new Manitoba nucleus important for Topigs Norsvin?

Olijslagers: “This project is very important for Topigs Norsvin. To stay ahead of the competition, we must ensure that the engine of genetic improvement runs at full speed. And the new nucleus contributes substantially to this. The facility will also enable us to supply more terminal boars and more and bigger batches of Z-line females. This is needed to meet the rapidly growing demand for TN70 sows and our TN Tempo and Norsvin Duroc boars worldwide.

It is also important because we are the second biggest genetic supplier in the world. That creates a big responsibility to the industry and especially to our customers. We have to minimize the risk of disturbances in the genetic progress and its dissemination. With this new nucleus, we can more rapidly implement new breeding innovations and protocols, and we can act with greater flexibility. We need to ensure that our genetic progress engine runs flawlessly at top speed. When genetic progress is made at the level we achieve then every disturbance is visible. You can compare what we are doing to the performance of a Formula One or IndyCar racing. Every tiny detail makes a big difference to the speed.

Especially the bigger and integrated companies depend on and also demand highest genetic progress and constant availability of it. With this new nucleus, we will increase our reliability as a genetic supplier.”


What will the new nucleus contribute to faster genetic progress?

Olijslagers: “Genetic progress in the Z-line will increase by 10%. As this line is one of the parents of the TN70, the genetic progress of the TN70 will be 5% higher. That difference might not be seen in one year, but after five years, it is substantial and clearly noticeable, and it will contribute to our customer’s success.”


In the new nucleus, Topigs Norsvin has opted for loose farrowing. Why are you doing that?

Olijslagers: “We are breeding pigs that need to fit market needs in five years’ time. We follow developments in society and legislation closely and in many places in the world, we see an increased focus on animal welfare. Housing sows in groups during gestation is already mandatory in many countries and more countries will follow suit. We have implemented group housing during gestation in most nucleus farms for decades.

Now a discussion on loose housing of the sows during farrowing has started in several countries. We have to take our responsibility by breeding and selecting pigs that can produce in this kind of housing. Only then can we assure our customers that our genetics will comply with future housing systems and market demands.

The Norsvin Landrace line in Norway has been bred in loose farrowing systems for many years. The Z-line will now be bred in that way too.”


Several years ago, Topigs Norsvin built Delta Canada in Manitoba. Now you are establishing this new nucleus. Why do you invest so much in this part of Canada?

Olijslagers: “Canada, and especially Manitoba, is one of the best regions in the world for high-health nucleus pig breeding. It is a region with low pig density. There are no other pigs in the surroundings of our new location. Due to this low pig density, it is possible to breed with a high-health status.
Furthermore, the international airport in Winnipeg makes it easy to transport pigs and semen to every country in the world.

All our breeding facilities in Canada are about a one-hour drive from Winnipeg and this big city and its environs are attractive to live in. This is an advantage when hiring the workforce. And another key factor: Canadians want to breed pigs. They have the mindset, knowledge, and skills needed for running a nucleus farm.

By the way, Manitoba is not the only region in the world where our nucleus farms are located. We also breed in Europe. And we have several satellite nucleus farms around the world. These units are just one generation of genetic progress behind the nucleus farms.”


Delta Canada is about a one-hour drive away from the new nucleus. What is the connection between the two?

Olijslagers: “Young Z-line boars from the new nucleus will be tested and CT scanned at Delta Canada. The best boars will be used for the next generation at the new nucleus or will be transported to AI centres and customers in North America and the rest of the world. This will make Delta Canada a hub for the genetic progress achieved in the new nucleus.

The females born on the new nucleus will also be raised in a yet to be built rearing unit a few kilometres from the main location of the new nucleus farm. They will be used for the next generation at the nucleus or will be exported.”


When will the first animals produced on the new nucleus be available for customers?

Olijslagers: “We plan to populate the new nucleus in the summer of 2022. This means that the first
animals will be available for our customers in the first quarter of 2023.”