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Weekly Overview: Putting a Value on Excellent Pig Husbandry

09 December 2013

ANALYSIS - At a recent meeting, Danish pig producers heard how improving the performance of their pigs can boost their bottom line, and British farmers received the same message at an event in the last week. A new report puts a price on an outbreak of a serious pig disease in the UK - at more than £300 million. Although the EU is finding additional disease surveillance, the UK's veterinary service has announced that it is making cuts. Isn't that taking a terrible risk with the country's livestock industries, asks Jackie Linden.

The top 25 per cent of farms in Denmark can achieve around DKK12 (Danish Krone) per pig through careful weaning management compared to the average Danish pig farm.

The most important aspect of the production unit to manage is the feed conversion rate, according to Kristian Jensen from the pig advisory service of mid-Jutland.

For the top 25 per cent of farms in Denmark, feed conversion can be worth DKK9 per pig from the weaning unit while reducing mortality in the unit by just under half a per cent compared to the average farm can be worth about DKK1 per pig and the greater weight at sale, which can be around 1kg more than on the average farm in Denmark, can be worth DKK2 more.

Mr Jensen said that, when the pigs are then taken into the finishing unit, similar productivity gains are seen in the top 25 per cent of farms in Denmark and these gains are achieved by first ensuring that the pigs are started well in the unit.

Reducing the costs of feeding is one of the main ways when it comes to finishing pigs to build up a greater margin so the type of feed and how it is fed are issues that need particular attention.

After feed conversion, Mr Jensen said it is also important for the farmer to concentrate on the mortality rates in the herd as this can also be worth around DKK5.50 more per kilo in the finished pig. Achieving a slightly higher slaughter weight also adds value to the pig, he added.

English pig producers cannot influence national feed costs or pig prices so they should focus on the parts of their business within their control, such as the numbers of pigs reared and sold per sow per year, John Richardson of Production Performance Services Ltd told a BPEX event for UK pig farmers.

A new analysis puts the cost of a serious disease outbreak in the UK at £300 million overall or 30 to 40 pence per kilo on the pig price.

That - and the suspicion that poorly processed swill was the likely cause of the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak in the the UK in 2001 - is why the country's pig industry so set against an end to the ban on swill feeding of pigs as a solution to cut food waste.

In the last week, Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) has announced what is describes as an improved approach to scanning surveillance to better detect new and re-emerging animal diseases and threats in England and Wales.

The new system aims to improve both geographical and species-specific coverage of disease surveillance across the region by making better use of the expertise and resources of private vets, universities and the livestock industry. This follows recommendations of the independent Surveillance Advisory Group to enhance the surveillance system.

While the National Farmers Union of Wales, NFU Cymru, has welcomed the move, the Royal College of Pathologists has warned that it puts at risk the health of livestock and means new and re-merging infections could be missed.

Over €160 million has been committed by the EU to support eradication and monitoring programmes that aim to eliminate animal diseases and zoonoses and further strengthen the protection of human and animal health.

Among the 142 programmes selected for EU funding are salmonellosis, Classical Swine Fever, African Swine Fever and Swine Vesicular Disease in Italy.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

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