Use Your KPIs Pig Producers Advised

UK - Not making use of IT through computerised recording systems is costing pig producers thousands of pounds a year.
calendar icon 4 April 2006
clock icon 5 minute read
Ed Sutcliffe Such systems highlight Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and evaluate their effects on individual herds. Farmers can then identify those that would have the most direct economic benefit by improving them, Ed Sutcliffe told over 100 producers attending a conference organised by pig-breeding company ACMC at their Beeford, East Yorkshire, headquarters. The event was followed by an informal hog roast.

As an example, Mr Sutcliffe, the company’s technical director, compared two KPIs in a feeding herd: P2 backfat thickness and growth rate.

Improving P2 from 10.5 mm to 10.0 mm resulted in an extra 8 per cent of pigs reaching top grade, worth an average of £0.33 per pig. But improving growth rate by 10g per day was worth £1.08 per pig. He pointed out that these figures would vary according to individual herd parameters, which was why such recording systems were important.

The use of different sire-line boars had increased in recent years, particularly in response to demands from the supply chain, but Mr Sutcliffe questioned whether producers had recorded the effects of their use on their KPIs. Pietrain and Pietrain- derivatives had become popular because of the extra depth of eye-muscle they imparted. Yet their progeny was relatively slow-growing compared with that from a Large White and this difference could amount to £6.50 per pig through ‘lost’ deadweight, if the pigs were slaughtered at the same age.

“The Pietrain-sired pigs could suffer up to 7.5 per cent lower mortality and the Large White sires would still retain a financial advantage,” he said.

A recent survey covering 100,000 sows showed that while 95 per cent of farmers had at least one computer only 80 per cent use herd recording software. If this trend is representative of the national herd then 88,000 sows remain unrecorded by computer within the UK.

“Without a computer you have little chance, but with proper software KPIs can be used to great advantage. Paper records, however good, are hard to analyse. But with today’s software there’s no excuse now. Producers recording on computer who can’t analyse their data should ask their advisers to assist them,” he declared.

‘Three-sow’ feeding regime needed
With today’s high-performing dams, the use of a ‘three-sow’ feeding regime — for the gilt, dry sow and lactating dam — is a pre-requisite to maximising sow profitability, Dr Brian Vernon told the conference.

“Specific feeding programmes to optimise egg implantation and birth weight under the farm environment mean that farmers and their advisers must work closely together. The recording of detailed sow performance data is now an essential part of the evaluation process.

Where there are issues on the farm and three months later problems occur then there is a need to accurately identify previous problems, however minor,” he said.

Improving birth weights with optimum sow nutrition will see an increase in weaning weights. Healthy weaners growth faster, reaching slaughter quicker and, therefore, improve herd profitability.

Dr Vernon pointed out that a study had shown how a 150g increase in mean birth weight had resulted in the pigs reaching slaughter at 90kg liveweight 5-11 days quicker on the same feeding regime.

The opportunity to improve the distribution in piglet birthweight should not be overlooked either as this could have a tremendous effect on the spread in days to slaughter. “Having personally weighed 6,814 piglets on UK farms over the last three years, the data is there to prove the point!” he said.

Expanding in the face of competition
Adam Couch of Cranswick Country Foods Development explained how the company had continued to expand in the face of cheap European imports.

The company, which has a turnover of over £400 million and processes up to 20,000 pigs a week, now has six divisions and has focused on the premium sector with sales in this sector through the four major retailers increasing from £10 million to £80 million over the last five years.

“Growth in the ‘super premium sausage tier’ is exceptional with consumers trading up at unprecedented levels,” he commented. “This is particularly encouraging as these are our main target categories.” While growth in the premium sausage category was exceeding 10 per cent per annum, through product development Cranswick were achieving far in excess of this level.

The company, however, did not miss opportunities to maximise returns in less glamorous areas, with sales from the so-called ‘fifth-quarter’ including feet to China, heart valves for medical purposes and packing bones for Japan.

As part of the drive for efficiency, average weight of carcases had increased from 73kg five years ago to the current 77kg, while maintaining a sub-12mm probe.

“We are confident that, through pursuing quality and innovation, along with our obsessive drive for efficiency, we can rival our European competition. While many in the UK processing industry have contracted, we continue to have faith in the UK pig industry and intend to press ahead with investment in our abattoir facilities,” said Mr Couch.
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