Dennis DiPietre
Dennis DiPietre

“The U.S. pork industry is facing a predictable crunch, which happens when major drought collides with ever-increasing competitive demand for corn-for-fuel,” says Dennis DiPietre, Knowledge Ventures. Ethanol now reportedly exceeds all livestock corn use on an annual basis in the United States. 

“Given the likely future increased demand for corn-for-fuel, resulting from the faltering movement to cellulosic ethanol production, which was supposed to bring relief from ever increasing competitive corn demand, pork producers face a future where anything but sequential record corn crops will result in extreme feed price volatility, price rationing and ever higher average pork production costs,” DiPietre says.

As producers tighten down feeders, check their micron size and strive to minimize over-formulation, anything that affects feed utilization efficiency and reduces waste becomes a critical consideration, DiPietre notes.  Genetic improvements in both pigs and corn, technological advances in feeding and milling equipment and pig housing as well as new pharmaceuticals and biologicals will incentivize the adoption of new advances.

DiPietre points to Improvest as one such advance now being considered in the United States.  “While there is a substantial and sometimes hesitant courtship process playing out as several levels of the production, processing and marketing channel take a closer look at this new product, one of the biggest financial advantages for producers is marked reductions in corn use if it is implemented,” he notes. 

Modeling growth and feed intake of physically castrated males along with males given Improvest using conventional corn/soybean meal diets reveals that up to 0.73 bushels of corn may be saved per male pig treated with Improvest compared to a physically castrated barrow, DiPietre calculates. 

He looked at the savings for a hog marketed at 210 lbs. carcass weight, with a corresponding wean-to-finish feed efficiency of 2.55 versus 2.34 (physical versus immunologically castrate).  The dollar savings depends on corn and protein price, but at $7.45 per bushel for corn, $480 per ton for soybean meal and $284 per ton for distillers dried grains with soluables, the estimated net saving is more than $5 per head in total feed cost, DiPietre points out. Improvest treated males require more protein but use less total feed and corn to achieve the same weight carcass as traditional barrows.

On a 1,200-sow, farrow-to-finish farm that markets 15,000 male pigs annually, the corn savings could be close to 11,000 bushels per year, he estimates. For a 2,400-sow farm the corn savings pencil out at 21,900 bushels annually. “At September’s average projected U.S. corn output (122.8 bushel per acre), it means Improvest could save the 2,400-sow, farrow-to-finish producer the equivalent of over 178 acres of corn,” DiPietre notes. “Adoption by large regions or nationwide would cause a dramatic savings in total U.S. corn production and would be expected to lower price both of corn and eventually hogs though more total hogs would likely be produced.” 

He points out that many rounds of adjustment would take place to reach new equilibria across the feed-grain and related protein (beef and poultry) sectors. “Estimating the new equilibrium in each market is beyond our scope here,” DiPietre says.