Cohort Comparison: Large vs. Herds

By Stephanie Rutten, DVM, University of Minnesota and published by PigCHAMP - There is little doubt that the pig industry has changed dramatically in the last two decades - from changes in herd structure to changes in ownership to changes in the genetic base. Each year, benchmarks serve as “state-of-the-industry” reports that provide both motivation for change and recognition of how far the industry has come.
calendar icon 17 July 2006
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The 2005 PigCHAMP year-end summaries are filled with interesting numbers that serve to describe the state of the U.S. pork industry. Herds often compare their performance numbers to the summary to try to determine where they fall with respect to the competition. But this opens the door to the question -- who is "the competition?"

By its very nature, the annual year-end summary describes sow herds that share a common recordkeeping system, but it is beyond the scope of PigCHAMP's Benchmarking program to define participating herds on the basis of weaned destination, health or genetic programs. It is, however, possible to consider herds with respect to size.

Starting with the 2004 PigCHAMP Benchmark, average production data has been compiled by size cohort. The purpose of the cohort summary is to provide herds with another benchmark that describes herds with similar characteristics. The size cohort summary for the 2005 year-end summary is shown in the graph. Size cohorts were determined by average female inventory over the year.

The summary presents an interesting picture of the average herd within each cohort. Of course, there are always herds above average, just as there are always herds below average. Likewise, the detail with which herds record events varies. Nevertheless, these average herds paint an interesting picture about the competition. Some observations include:

  • The average percent multiple matings is 14-15% less among the small herds compared with mid-sized and large herds.

  • Average farrowing rate increases with average herd size.

  • Average farrowing interval is greatest among small herds, as are wean-to-first-service intervals, average age at weaning and average non-productive sow days (NPD).

  • Average total born and born alive per litter are similar among small and mid-sized herds and greatest for large herds.

  • Average pre-weaning mortality is least among mid-sized herds and greatest among small herds.

  • Average pigs weaned/sow increases with increasing herd size cohort, as does average pigs weaned/mated female/year.

  • Average culling and death rates are least among small herds and greatest among large herds.

While conclusions drawn from the averages of yearly data are of limited value, it appears the greatest production advantage among large herds lies within farrowing rate and the overall ability to attain productive sow days once an animal is bred.

The similarity among size cohort averages for percent of litters with less than seven pigs born live, and average pigs born alive/litter, suggests productivity potential is not limited by herd size.

Reproduced June 2006

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