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Small, simple solutions can make big difference in pork production

by 5m Editor
25 April 2006, at 12:00am

ALBERTA - Pork producers should not overlook the smaller and less expensive solutions that can put more money in their pockets, says a 25-year veteran of the pork industry.

Based on his experience in working with a wide variety of pork operations over that time, veterinarian Neil Shantz of Warman, Saskatchewan says successful pork production comes down to four key cornerstones: production efficiencies, revenue enhancement, financial reporting and cost management.

The key to successfully implementing these four cornerstones, says Shantz, is learning how to manage human resources, and key to that is communication. “With employees becoming more and more a part of a typical swine operation, good communication is more important than ever before,” he says.

The first cornerstone, production efficiencies, consists of four primary areas: facility throughput, breeding herd efficiency, growing herd efficiency and marketing.

Although there are a number of benchmarks that can be used to measure production efficiency, Shantz warns against relying too much on any one benchmark as there are often factors that can skew the results. “Ultimately, facilities and animals never lie — they’ll tell you what the throughput is,” he says.

When it comes to breeding herd efficiency, Shantz says there is a general industry need to adjust practices to meet the needs of new genetic capabilities. “We are now seeing 13 born alive per litter on average in some units and farrowing room practices that are still focused on 10 or 11 born alive. If these females give us 13 pigs every time, we need to learn how to rear those pigs in the most natural way we can.”

Shantz calls growing herd efficiency “where the money’s being made.” An issue in this category is the challenge farrow-to-finish operations have in balancing weekly production levels between breeding and growing herds. In cases where a breeding herd is much more productive than the growing herd, Shantz recommends cutting back on the size of the breeding herd to match the growing herd capacity.

Marketing on equivalents can help producers make good infrastructure decisions, says Shantz. “When you’re building a new barn, why would you build a 400-sow barn that is always going to be short 20 or 30 pigs per week on a semi-load of pigs and drive freight costs up automatically? You need to think in terms of what will get you a semi-load of pigs per week.”

The next cornerstone is revenue enhancement. Supply contracts, disciplined marketing procedures, quality marketing, breeding stock sales and integrated marketing are all tools of revenue enhancement, says Shantz. “Supply contracts create stability, and you need that stability,” he says.

Financial reporting is often the cornerstone producers have the most difficulty with. But by not doing it, says Shantz, they deprive themselves of an extremely valuable resource for good financial decision-making. “There’s tremendous opportunity to capture profits through financial reporting.”

The fourth cornerstone, effective cost management, comes down to budgeting, buying competitively and making informed and timely purchasing decisions. When it comes to building and buying fixed assets competitively, Shantz emphasizes the need for owners and operators to make the decisions. “You have to go through the project yourself, know the details and know at the end of the day that you are going to be a competitive producer.”

More information on Shantz’s four cornerstones of pork production is available in the March 2006 edition of the Alberta Pork Industry Report, available on the Alberta Pork corporate Web site at www.albertapork.com.

Alberta Pork represents more than 1,000 pork producers in the province. The industry produces more than 3.5 million hogs each year. The overall agriculture industry directly and indirectly generates one out of three jobs in the province.

The PigSite News Desk

5m Editor