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Dealing with High Feed Costs

31 October 2012

Tips on managing high feed costs are offered by Doug Richards, Swine Grower-Finisher Specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in the latest 'Pork News & Views' newsletter from OMAFRA.

Mice, rats, feed spillage/spoilage, leaking feed delivery systems, cracked/broken hammer mill screens, broken feeders, humid smelly barn air, plugged feeders, manure pit solids under feeder locations, large weight distribution on market hog grading sheets and the list goes on...

What do all these things have in common? They are all part of the big picture that leads to increased costs for hog operations. There are no big dollar solutions when feeding high priced corn; it will be finding the nickel and dime savings by managing these little things that can help. Hog producers want to be at the top of their management game especially for this coming year.

Below are points to ponder as hog producers look at ways to manage high feed costs.

Walk your fields and see your crop's condition and yield. No need for any surprises at harvest. Try to get some projection of tonnage so your can estimate your crop needs against feed usage. If you project, or know, you are short on feed look at options that may help reduce your current usage. Areas may include reducing sow numbers/culling some of your under-performing sows, culling weak non-viable piglets as early as possible and raising only viable strong piglets that will make viable market hogs.

Know your shipping weights and keep weights current. Look at options to increase returns by shipping light hogs or different grids/contracts. Use the Ontario Grading Explorer to look at ways to maximise your market returns.

Work with your feed or premix supplier to match your ration requirements to your animals needs. If making your own feed, get your new crops tested for protein and use that information to balance the herd's different ration requirements. Using standard book values for grains can cost you money. Calibrate your mill and test your rations regularly. This year, too much or too little of any ingredient can result in lost dollars if pigs are not performing, or rations are not balanced.

Feed/crop storage - Make sure bins and aeration systems are cleaned out, and any repairs needed to prevent crop spoilage are done before the harvest starts. Look at ways to monitor the temperature of the crop during storage. This is not the year to have crops spoiled by poor or improper storage, or have pigs refuse to eat mouldy corn or wheat which can cause health problems.

Check your feed delivery system from the bin to the feeder for signs of spillage, loose connections or needed repairs. Feed spillage can be a food source for rodents who in turn can be a vector for disease. Have a rodent control programme in place to reduce the risk.

Make sure feeders are in good working condition and adjusted for the size of animal being fed. Monitor feed usage/spillage in feeders and adjust if necessary.

Check your ventilation system, fans, inlets and heaters. Review your maximum and minimum ventilation rates and heater interlock settings. Heating rooms up to only trigger exhaust fans to turn on can be expensive.

Ask for input from others working in the barn if they have any ideas on how to reduce expenses in the barn. At a staff or production meeting, set some time aside to talk about management or production tips that can help find those 'nickel and dime' savings by managing the little things that may get overlooked in the daily barn routine.

October 2012

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