About us

We are the dependable pig people!

We are always guided by the needs of our customers and the requirements of the market.

BHZP GmbH (German Federal Hybrid Breeding Programme) with headquarters in Ellringen, Lower Saxony is one of Germany's largest pig breeding companies. Our breeding, AI and software divisions offer premium quality products, extensive industry expertise and diverse services.

We are dynamic, hard-working and committed to investing in a successful and sustainable business ... but we are still not sufficiently on the radar of piglet producers, consultancy organisations and so on. Furthermore, the market is extremely competitive.”

Industry expert and BHZP General Manager Dr Conrad Welp explains why Germany’s piglet producers should be familiar with BHZP.

Dr Welp, BHZP GmbH has been an established player in the German pig breeding industry for around 45 years; in fact, it is a market leader in the AI boar sector and yet it is not very widely known – why is that?

For decades BHZP took the view that high-performance products were all that were needed to ensure market success. It was felt that a certain level of brand awareness would be generated by the enormous performance capabilities of our pig lines – and this has partly been the case. However, we now realise that product quality alone is no longer enough as a USP. It also takes a marketing, advertising and service concept to achieve a high level of brand awareness – in other words, we need to define the qualities that make our products special. The outstanding quality of BHZP’s artificial insemination (AI) products has been confirmed by their impressive results in the product quality test. However, we do not publish an annual AI report or an AI boar catalogue as is customary in our industry ... and to redress this possible shortcoming, we are in the process of compiling a dedicated AI brochure which will also showcase our breeding expertise and services in this field.

The BHZP has plenty to offer: Can you tell us about the group’s portfolio and capacity?

Our performance capabilities can be illustrated by six pillars. The first pillar is genetics and primary breeding. As a company, we are the owners of the genetics. Our research and development unit including central database and the estimation of breeding values – the second pillar – is another trademark of BHZP. Thirdly, we have the all-important artificial insemination infrastructure that is needed to achieve rapid breeding progress. We benefit from having our own AI stations and boars with a high health status. The fourth pillar is our Veterinary Association – we have our own veterinary services at BHZP because we are convinced that animal health goes hand-in-hand with product quality. The fifth pillar is our user-friendly software solutions which are developed in-house and are geared to consultants, marketing organisations and producers. And finally, the sixth pillar is customer service, an area we have significantly expanded in recent years.

Another strand of our services has come about through our partnership with our two majority shareholders – VzF and EGN. This partnership allows us to offer a unique and comprehensive service package that encompasses all stages of breeding and production including pig genetics, IT and on-farm fertility services as well as reliable data management, which is crucial for users to determine their current position in the market. By evaluating data from the piglet rearing and finishing farms and by capitalising on the structures of the VzF GmbH, we can control the biological and commercial aspects of our breeding programme at all times. This enables us to incorporate carcass and organ data etc. into our breeding work.

What makes the BHZP so unique in Germany and Europe as a whole? What's special about you?

All our shareholders are farming organisations located in Germany. So our breeding programme is German in origin and supported by farmers. This is why we have a duty to be guided by the needs of our customers and the requirements of the market. Our company is not an end in itself; we provide a service. What also makes BHZP unique is our ability to implement business decisions extremely quickly. Thanks to our lean management structure and few decision-making levels, processes can flow from an idea to market implementation extremely rapidly. This gives us clear advantages in the marketplace. Also, we focus mainly on the German market, which has more consumers than any other market in Europe. Our special shareholder structure allows us to respond very rapidly to changes in the German market. Unlike many other businesses, BHZP does not concentrate solely on primary customers – piglet producers. Instead we are involved at every stage of production, from slaughter to consumer markets. As such, we have access to vital information spanning the entire production process which we analyse and, where necessary, incorporate into our breeding programme.

In contrast to foreign competition, as a German breeding company we are able to supply ‘4 x D’, i.e. our breeding animals are descended from parents and grandparents born and raised in Germany. This high level of transparency is unusual in breeding. Our extensive expertise also makes us unusual: As a full-service provider, we can answer any questions to do with pig production in-house. Another advantage of BHZP is that we have our own AI centres with our own boars, which allows us to significantly influence the genetic focus and adapt it to market requirements. We do not buy in boars! Other breeding companies in Germany don't have a system like this. Premium boar quality, the high health status of the boars, quarantine stations etc. – this is what makes BHZP an individual rather than an umbrella brand in the AI segment. This means of course that we have to work tirelessly to improve quality. 

What are your unique selling points – what do you offer that your competitors can't?

The overall service package in the AI sector for a start. However, we need to explain more clearly to our customers the quality processes and criteria that lie behind semen collection. Germany is a global spot market in terms of artificial insemination. It is extremely costly to conduct our breeding work and produce high-quality sperm from top-class animals, e.g. equipping and running the AI centres, developing internal quality processes – from production to fractionation, analysis, portioning and finally distribution. These processes are applied consistently to the same high standard across all BHZP stations. Quality controls are monitored by independent bodies. Our boar performance testing system is extremely complex – the most comprehensive in Europe! No more than 5% of all boars tested make it onto the breeding programme – which indicates the substantial level of investment made on behalf of our customers. On top of that there are all the bio-security measures, such as transportation in special filtered trailers, to consider. This all adds up to a single unique selling point because no other organisation in Europe operates on this scale!

We also have a progeny testing system for boars. At our test facilities we perform over 50,000 carcass assessments each year, which gives us an extremely detailed picture of the performance of our products and our boar lines. It is the largest testing system of its kind in Germany, and in Europe.

Are there any other USPs?

Yes, as I mentioned before, our unique selling points certainly include a special corporate structure that enables us to respond rapidly and provide expertise from a single source and a comprehensive service package. Then there is the brand image of our breeding programme, which is based on a consistent, customer-focused advertising and marketing concept. This is something our customers can identify with. They want dependable products, they want to be proud of what they themselves have achieved, of the products they work with which are their livelihood. Our customers’ aspirations and needs are reflected in our advertising. BHZP's positive, contemporary image exemplifies the relationship between humans and animals – the photo of a farmer with his sow, for example – with the core message: We don't deal in stressed animals. Our pigs are contented and easy-going. Or the emotive, tongue-in-cheek photo of the sweet-smelling ‘gentleman’ pig. And it comes across. As we see it, we are not trailblazers, we simply offer products tailored to the very varied needs of our customers; be it gilts, AI, software or closed herd systems. Our slogan sums it up perfectly: We are the dependable pig people! 

And it is precisely these dependable services that set you apart. What is your market position in the individual segments?

BHZP is currently No.2 in Germany in the AI segment, although based on the proportion of finishing pigs whose origins can be traced back to us, we are actually in first place. We rank second in terms of sows sold. When it comes to software/IT, we are the market leader in Germany. So we are at the forefront in all segments. But that's as it should be ... and since we focus exclusively on the local German market, it makes perfect sense to aim for market leadership in our fields.

Earlier you referred to BHZP’s special expertise and your ability to deal with any questions relating to pig production in-house. How do your customers benefit from this?

At BHZP we are very closely involved with matters specifically concerning pig production in Germany. These include issues of political or public interest such as long tails, aspects of behavioural research or questions relating to performance limits in pig production that are accepted by the general public. Increasingly, we find ourselves dealing with traits which are difficult to influence through breeding. These require a substantial number of study animals – but pig farmers in Germany can rest assured that BHZP is looking carefully at these issues and is exploring whether we can influence these traits by selective breeding. In this area too, we have proved to be a reliable partner. 

What are the overall benefits for BHZP customers?

Ultimately, we have to gear our services to varying biological and commercial outcomes. Piglet producers, for example, have different interests to growers and finishers, so we have designed the BHZP programme to address these diverse interests. We always look at the overall profitability; indeed, a product test has recently confirmed that BHZP Boar 77 is unbeaten on this score. In the sow sector BHZP is synonymous with high fertility performance and high quotas of piglets reared with no increased losses. We aim to breed a ‘social’ sow which can be kept in groups, has strong maternal instincts and rears her piglets herself or with the aid of a foster mother if necessary. Breeders at BHZP are more interested in maximising efficiency in terms of costs and performance rather than maximising litter size.

A company is also judged by whether it remains true to its aspirations ... what makes BHZP unique special in this area?

We aim for consistent customer focus, high-quality products and services geared to the user. With many companies, there is a tremendous gulf between their aspirations and reality. Anyone judging our products will be hard pressed to find any such discrepancy. Naturally, our services are provided and used in various forms by people throughout Germany, and to achieve this we rely on internal and external training programmes. Our success confirms that this is the right approach, as borne out by growth in all areas of the company. Even in difficult times, we never had to slaughter any sows. We are proud of the fact that we are still expanding here in Germany, despite market conditions that are known to be the most difficult in Europe.

A company is only as good as its employees.  How do you invest in training, personnel development and internal communications?

Well, one example is our Veterinary Association, which provides us with highly qualified vets and is authorised to train specialist pig vets. We train young people to become stockpersons at our primary breeding centres. We also offer our staff a wide-ranging internal/external training programme covering various fields (e.g. breeding, AI, consultancy, sales, veterinary medicine). It's not always easy to recruit staff to fill vacancies in all areas of our company, so we are currently developing special trainee programmes for various occupations within our corporate group.

Is there not also an image problem?

Pig production has attracted public attention in recent years which has not always been positive. But young people are not judgemental and when they start out on a career in pig husbandry, they tend to take a positive view of their employment situation and can see that the job has good prospects. This is where we have to focus our efforts!

Sometimes even outstanding products, above-average specialist knowledge and research activity are not enough to ensure that a company is well-positioned for the future. Does BHZP actively engage in employee recruitment and employer branding?

Ten years ago the company went through a tough period which made it difficult to recruit young people. We now have a very good image and from the number of applicants we receive, it's clear that BHZP is a sought-after employee. We must capitalise on this situation in the years ahead to further raise the profile of our employer brand. For example, by hosting more awareness-raising events, investing in more marketing and advertising, offering outstanding products and – essentially – providing in-house trainee programmes. The BHZP Group offers unusually diverse career opportunities and openings in the field of pig production from indoor husbandry, high-tech IT, the presentation and communication of serious scientific findings, animal health/welfare, consultation, sales, administration to transport and logistics.

There can be no business growth without planning for the future: What are your long-term goals and visions, and where do you see yourself investing in the decades to come?

First, I envisage that we will create sufficiently large populations, expand nucleus herds, i.e. nucleus farms and AI centres and continue to expand our veterinary services through the Veterinary Association. We also plan to develop our own recruitment strategy. One particularly important future task is to incorporate the shareholder structures even more tightly to improve our performance profile and promote it further afield.

By consolidating the highly specialised services provided by our majority shareholders in meaningful modules, we have created a pig industry network that is unique in Germany. We have a responsibility to German pig farmers to make the most of this position and opportunity.