Besides accounting for about 60 percent of the total costs on a swine operation, feed represents about 75 percent of the variable costs. Today, this means that all production phases should be critiqued. However, starting with the following points may yield the greatest immediate returns.

1)  Monitor feed costs and usage

Producers must control the factors that influence feed cost per pound, such as diet cost and feed efficiency. This starts by scrutinizing all components of a diet’s costs, specifically grain and protein, which can account for about 90 percent of the diet’s costs. Reducing feed waste through proper feeder adjustment and maintaining proper feed particle size (700 to 800 microns) cannot be overemphasized. Phase-feeding programs also are needed to more closely match the pigs’ nutritional needs.

These steps are especially critical in the late-finishing phase due to the large amount of feed consumed, as well as in the nursery phase due to the diet’s expense. Feeding multiple diets in the finisher is critical to minimizing the feed cost per pound of gain. A four-phase grow/finish diet program can result in approximately a $3-per-head reduction in feed costs, compared to a conventional two-phase diet program.

Monitor feed use to ensure that diets are fed to pigs of the correct weight and for the right amount of time. Feed budgeting can prevent you from mistakenly feeding an extra half-ton of expensive starter diets.

2) Reduce sort loss

In a KansasStateUniversity survey, weighing and strictly sorting pigs prior to marketing was shown to yield a return of $50 to $100 per hour, just by reducing sort loss.

3) Keep hog marketings current

Feed efficiency drops off rapidly as pigs are pushed to heavier weights. Lean premiums may also decline for some genotypes, due to increased backfat. High feed costs change the outlook on heavy weights. Once pigs are past your packer’s minimum weight, additional weight often results in a reduced net return, particularly when facing $4-per-bushel corn. This decreases your investment in hogs and may increase your cash corn sales, depending on your supply.

4) Convert idle assets, such as nonproductive sows, to cash

A nonproductive sow costs you more than $1 per day to keep. With high feed costs, you should intensify sow culling to keep only the most productive animals.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Only gilts and first-litter sows should be given two chances to rebreed.
  • Second-parity and older sows get one chance after weaning to become pregnant.
  • Any sow that aborts after 60 days of pregnancy is an automatic cull.
  • Cull sows with a history of poor reproductive performance (litter size, weaning weights and health problems).

Sell sows without attempting to add extra weight. Poor sow feed efficiency (6:1 to 7:1) makes it impossible to make money by fattening sows with expensive corn.

5) Streamline hog inventories

Reduce your investment in females by cutting replacement rates to 20 percent. This requires extending and monitoring the herd’s parity rate. You also can run production facilities at 90 percent to 100 percent instead of 120 percent. This will lower stocking density, limit investment in hogs and cut days on feed for the remaining pigs by increasing the space allowance and decreasing feed usage.


Starter I     Feed usage: 0.5%

Starter II     Feed usage: 2.0%

Starter III     Feed usage: 6.0%

Grower     Feed usage: 22.0%

Finisher     Feed usage: 52.5%

Gestation/Lactation     Feed usage: 16.0%