Globally, the Dominican Republic is often thought of as a winter vacation spot with its abundant sunshine and blue skies. The island’s population of 9 million swells by 50 percent when accounting for tourists, who also broaden the country’s pork consumption. The country continues to develop new resorts, so pork demand is likely to grow as well.

Worth noting is that in the 1980s African swine fever decimated the Dominican Republic’s and Haiti’s swine populations, after which large numbers of breeding stock were shipped in from the United States and Canada.

Today, the Dominican Republic has about 70,000 sows, and Carlos Porello’s team manages 5,000 of them.

He saw the need to improve the Dominican Republic’s quality of pigs, so last year he and three farmer friends established Biogenetik. “Semen and gilts from Biogenetik will transform the quality of pigs and pig meat here,” Porello says. The key component is a 100-head boar stud, sourced from the Quebec-based company, Genetiporc. The boars used are either Genetiporc Performer terminal sires or dam-line males, with 50 arriving last summer. The remainder were scheduled to arrive last month.

“This is the first commercial stud in the Dominican Republic,” Porello notes. “When up and running, 50 percent of the semen will be sold; the other 50 percent will be used on my own and the other company directors’ sows.”

The stud, which is the first one to sell semen in the country, is located in the north end of the island. It is a very isolated site, situated in the middle of 150 acres and built on a slight slope. The site maintains strict biosecurity, and all new animal introductions are quarantined away from this farm.

Boars are housed in stalls, in an airy, curtain-sided, naturally ventilated building. All openings are covered with wire netting to keep out birds. Interestingly, the boars are routinely weighed each month, and measurements are taken to monitor each boar’s fatness and body condition.

Much thought went into designing the boar-semen collection area. A sunken pit means that boars are collected at operator-chest level, eliminating the need for the person to bend over. Seventy percent of the boars are collected on Monday starting at , with the remainder collected on Thursdays. A five-day semen extender is used. The stud has a custom-built, biosecure viewing room where customers can observe and evaluate the sires’ conformation.

“The farm also is the location of a new 500-sow, multi-site system that’s stocked with dam lines Genetiporc Vigor 100 GGPs and Vigor 120 GPs. This facility will eventually produce 3,000 F1 Fertilis 20 gilts a year,” says Gratien Theriault, Genetiporc’s Dominican Republic representative. “The Vigor 100 GGPs will be imported annually from Canada in order to maintain genetic improvement.”

Genetiporc has been working with the Dominican Republic for the last 10 years, and more than 50 percent of the pork consumed there is now made up of Genetiporc genetics.

The heath status of boars and gilts is very impressive. All are negative for Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, TGE, foot-and-mouth disease, pseudorabies, mange and worms. Replacement stock is vaccinated for hog cholera, leptospirosis, erysipelas and parvovirus.

Gestation, farrowing and nursery buildings were completed when I visited the operation, while the grow-out facilities were still being built. When completed, the unit will produce only Fertilis 20 gilts for the user group. Barrows are shipped to another site for finishing.

Farrowing is conducted through a three-week batch system. Pigs are farrowed in crates, with piglets born onto a layer of shredded newspaper, a management tip instigated by Peter English, pork production specialist formerly with the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. At farrowing, the piglets are dipped into a tub of Mistral, a powder which dries the piglets and gets them suckling quickly. Piglets are processed (tails docked, needle teeth clipped and iron shots) on day-1, with males castrated and ear notching for gilts on day-3. Lactating sows are fed to appetite twice a day. On day-12, the two strongest piglets from each litter are weaned, leaving sows with an average of 10 pigs.

The litter is weaned at 21 days. The nursery is located adjacent to the farrowing buildings, whereas the grow-out buildings are 300 yards downhill. To monitor lactation weight loss, sows are weighed before farrowing and at weaning. Weaned sows are inseminated every 12 hours at least twice, or three times if a sow stands, using a five-day semen diluent and sponge catheters.

The Dominican Republic faces much lower costs than in Europe and North America. Building costs generally run about 30 percent less than in the United States and Canada. For example, construction laborers are paid $15 per day.

Water cost is minimal as a creek runs into a reservoir, which supplies the site by gravity. Following lagoon storage, waste slurry is passed through a separator where the solids are dried and then used in cattle feed or as organic fertilizer.

The swine barns are naturally ventilated so the electricity requirements are quite low. Currently a propane-powered generator provides electricity for the site. The plan is to power the generator by biogas from the slurry later this year.

As is customary, the farm staff lives on-site. A training center is planned for Biogenetik’s staff and customers’ staffs to teach artificial insemination and other swine management techniques. Long-term, Biogenetik will no doubt succeed in raising the quality of hogs produced in the Dominican Republic.