At the recent World Pork Expo, I was sitting down to a delightful pork lunch at one of the many vender hospitality tents. Sitting across from me were two veterinarians (one of whom I recognized and is very well known in the Midwest), discussing pork issues. One said, “The biggest problem our industry has is too many live born pigs.” That kind of statement will perk the ears of any consultant, vet, farmer, industry salesman, etc.!! Even in the midst of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), he brings up a good point.
Our systems have matured into weekly farrowing pods associated with nursery-finish or wean-finish for producing lean protein. Multiples of +/- 1000 are the norm. Nursery facilities range from 2.5 to 2.75 sq. ft./pig. Finishing has been pegged at 8 sq. ft. (I bet you already know where I am headed with this!)
The problem of “too many pigs” has been caused by the tremendous acceleration in pigs born per litter and the mentality that one week’s production moves down the chain of existing nursery/finish facilities. The finish phase is greatly challenged due to more pigs, (now about 7 sq. ft./pig?), and the HUGE increase in market weights. In early May, I was on a farm where the first cut from a barn had just been marked. Literally, two pigs needed to move so one could lie down. The load weighed an average of 306 lbs. the next day. Does this picture look and sound familiar?
I recently talked to a “tech rep” friend of mine who had just been with a major integrator. This integrator had been through a PEDv break last year, had recovered, and was closing out a few barns. The decision was made to fill those barns at 70 percent so as to get all of the empty barns into production, albeit not nearly full. As you can probably guess, average daily gain, feed efficiency and death loss were all significantly improved!
As my old friend Dr. Paul Armbrecht always asked: “Are you selling pigs by the head or by the pound?”
Stocking facilities at the level for which they are designed is a worthy exercise in “bottom line” business analysis. Think pounds per unit per year and forget the per head stuff.
Paul Meers Swine Consulting LLC
Opinions expressed are those of the author.