SPF status: an advantage or an expensive whim?

Maria Yaroshko, master of Business Administration, Ukrainian-German agrarian dialogue expert

Danish sows

Danish sows are ‘Mercedes’ in pigbreeding world. They are famous by their high productivity and piglets’ livability. But if speaking about Danish sows disadvantages, these are their nature. Many producers learn at their own experience how stubborn they could be. Besides, while working with Danish genetics you should take into account greater feed need.

The difficulties may appear while forming groups. For example, in Denmark, since 2013, sows are kept in groups from the fourth till the last week of pregnancy. Animal drifts from one unit to another need extra labour. But the main problem is conflicts, sometimes so strong that threaten sows’ lives and make impossible their further keeping in groups.

You might have heard about high mortality rate of Danish sows. This ‘phenomenon’ has a logical explanation. An expensive veterinary attendance and unwillingness to lose the business push farmers to idea of ‘self-dependent disposal’ of sows as those which have died. That’s where the gossips about Danish genetics high mortality rate originate from. But pigs, as you see, are not guilty. The problem is not all farms are ready to provide the suitable housing and feeding conditions to these fastidious animals, as well as to organize the correct herd management.


One of Danish pigbreeding peculiarities is animal health status assumption. This system is called SPF (Specific Pathogen Free), and foresees some certain infection and livestock health control rules, and also some pigs’ transportation demands from one herd to another. SPF status means the livestock is free from certain diseases. Although, a lot of people wrongly believe that SPF pigs are totally free from all problems, but it is impossible, because animals cannot be aseptic.

The farm free from certain diseases gets the SPF status. If any of agents are present, the status is changed into SPF+1, or SPF+2, and disease (s) is noticed. Besides, the farms are additionally controlled for oedema disease and salmonellosis. These data are the orienting point for pigbreeders: they help to identify where exactly to buy the pig livestock, and are the decisive pricing factor. All the data and results of examinations and researches are included into the centralize database, common for all the state. On its basis, all the farms with SPF status are divided into three security levels of animal health: red, blue and green. You can learn the data of all checked Danish farms and get the information about changes of their health status on the official page of Association of Danish Pig Breeders, where the data are renovated every week. This resource also has information about animal breeding value according the selection indexes and other factors.

Danish genetics in Ukraine

Ukrainian pigbreeders have long been interested in Danish genetics. The high productivity and health status of Danish pigs tempt. To be sure in animal quanlity, you should cooperate with charted suppliers, who have license and give warranties. Furthermore, you should be savvy in pig choice. What is the sense of buying high health level animals, if the farm is constantly suffering from disease outbreaks, is situated in a wrong region or just doesn’t have satisfying hygiene and management systems? That’s why before making a choice in Danish supplier favour, evaluate your farm objectively, it helps to stop on the enterprise of your category.

Frequently, difficulties hide in transportation arranging. Danish breeders warrant the pigs’ health in order to keep all corresponding rules of their transportation. Thus, the main requirement is the specially equipped transport. If you get a permission to take pigs away by your own truck, it should disquiet you and give reason to doubt in seller safety. Danish side deals with ferrier question very categorically, even if it is not so essential for Ukrainian one. Special animal delivery rules work there, even if they are carried to the slaughter, saying nothing of young breeding pigs.

Probably, some high hygiene and safety demands seem to be hyperbolic, as for example, compulsory agreements with controlling purchase authority of entomophages for killing fly-larvaes in manure and waste. However, such details allow Danes to be proud of high level health of their pigs that together with the high birth rate and good dam characters enable to claim a high price for them. Nowadays, thanks to convincing results Danish genetics conquers Ukrainian market. In turn, the farms’ awareness in market offer, supplier security and animal correspondence to settled standards will allow buying the high quality livestock. At the same time, Ukrainian customer should be ready to the possible difficulties and do not set pretentions to Danish breeders, who usually do their tasks the whole nine yards.

  1. What hygiene norms are obligatory for Danish pig farms?
  2. One of the peculiarities of Danish pigbreeding is animal health status assumption (SPF system). What diseases enter the declared SPF list? What SPF levels exist, and according to what principles are they differentiated?
  3. Why do more and more Ukrainian pig farms choose Danish genetics? What are its advantages and peculiarities?
  4. How do the transportation arrangements influence the productive gilts life? What should you pay attention to while buying and transporting animals? Do the high animal transport prices pay its way?

You can find answers for these and other questions in the full version of the article in the Profitable Pig Production magazine, № 5 (17) 2013.

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