Countering the Effect of Feed Price Escalation

Feed prices are high and look to remain so for the foreseeable future. The latest newsletter from the Garth Partnership in the UK offers advice on keeping control of feed costs.
calendar icon 29 August 2012
clock icon 4 minute read

This is the result of the worst drought conditions in the United States since 1956, and drought also around the Black Sea and in Argentina where soybean yields are down by 18 per cent. The effect of this will be to raise pig production costs globally, not just in the UK.

Currently, BPEX estimates total feed costs (including sow feed) to be 109p per kg deadweight, or 63 per cent of total production cost and 78 per cent of variable costs. Pig producers can do little to influence world feed prices but, as pig production is largely about the efficient conversion of feed into saleable meat, there is a lot that can be done to mitigate against the effect of rising feed prices.

FCR and its effect on cost of production
Wean to finish (7-104 kg) Average Top third Top 10%
FCR 2.44 2.28 2.12
Composite feed cost/tonne at forcast November 2012 prices £274 £274 £274
Feed cost/kg dead weight 89p 83p 77p
Feed cost/78kg dead weight pig £69.42 £64.74 £60.06

Based on the BPEX feed cost estimates, a 0.1 improvement in FCR is equivalent to a cost saving of £2.93 per finished pig. Agrosoft data indicates that the average FCR of the top third (in overall performance terms) of pig producers is 0.16 better than the national average with the top 10 per cent a further 0.16 above that, leading to premiums per pig of £4.68 and £9.36, respectively.

Making the Right Decisions

During tough times, a common tendency is either to cut costs or do nothing. Both scenarios are understandable but from a business perspective, this can often be disastrous. For example, in order to save cost a pig producer may decide to stop using a piglet vaccine which costs £1 per pig. But if, as result of this action, mortality increases and growth rate drops causing FCR to rise by 0.1 then the net loss now becomes £1.93 per pig - wrong decision!

Areas to Assess to Optimise FCR

  • Avoid feed wastage - repair feeders, prevent bird/rodent losses.
  • Adjust hoppers - correct feed flow rates. Is enough feed available or too much?
  • Adequate hopper space/pig - 5cm at 30kg and 7cm at 90kg for ad-lib feeders or one feeder space for 14 pigs.
  • Appropriate feeds - is the diet change-over occurring at the correct weights? Avoid over-feeding expensive diets.
  • Diet formulation - maintain the specification but formulate using alternative lower cost ingredients if available.
  • Bin hygiene - to avoid feed deterioration. When were the feed bins last cleaned and fumigated?
  • Feed quality - check deliveries for dust, variability, contamination and moisture level.
  • Adequate water availability - water flow rate of at least 1.0 litres per minute for finishers and a minimum of one nipple drinker per 15 pigs on ad-lib feed.
  • House temperature - aim to reduce variability/fluctuation and ensure that actual temperatures are correct for the weight of pigs housed - too cold or too hot both adversely affect FCR.
  • Improve air quality - carry out a ventilation ‘health check’ then adjust and clean inlets and fans as necessary. Maintain clean-down procedures and 'all in - all out' production.
  • Check pig health - via BPHS reports and clinical inspection by your vet. Review herd health programs and update procedures.
  • Monitor performance - during the growing/finishing period check weight for age and feed intakes. Respond to areas of recorded deficiency.

It is going to be tough but winners never quit - and quitters never win!

August 2012

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