Pork Producers Should Try Marketing Lighter Pigs

US - In a university report, Purdue University Extension swine specialist Allan Schinckel says that pork producers who are feeling pinched by high feed prices should contemplate marketing lighter pigs.
calendar icon 10 July 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

With corn and soybean meal prices climbing, producers can cut their losses $4 to $5 per head by selling their animals to processors at the minimum acceptable weights, Schinckel says.

"We have corn at $7 a bushel and soybean meal at $350 per ton -- a more than doubling of feed prices," he says. "Market hog prices haven't gone up to compensate for those higher prices, and producers are in a position where they are unprofitable and losing money.

"They can minimize those losses by taking the pigs to the pork processor on the lower end of the pork processor's acceptable weight range. If there's no discount for pigs above 250 pounds, you would market pigs semi-load by semi-load at just above 250 pounds."

According to Agriculture Online, processors pay the highest market price for pigs weighing 250 to 280 pounds, Schinckel said. When corn was $2.50 per bushel and soybean meal $180 per ton, producers could maximize their profits with pigs weighing at least 271 pounds, he says.

Research by Schinckel and fellow Purdue animal sciences and agricultural economics colleagues Paul Preckel, Mark Einstien, Todd Hobbs and Brian Richert found lower acceptable weight marketing is a producer's best strategy in high feed cost cycles. The findings were based on the percent lean requirements of three major pork processors: Tyson Foods, Indiana Packers Corp. and Farmland Foods, reports Agriculture Online.

Marketing lighter pigs is more labor-intensive, Schinckel says.

"A producer is going to have to sort pigs," he says. "They will go into each pen and separate the heavier animals two additional times per finishing unit. That comes out to about another six to 10 man-hours of labor per thousand-head finisher barn."

Producers who follow a lighter pig marketing strategy will make more frequent trips to the processor, Schinckel says.

The Purdue researchers also found that producers save on feed costs with pigs that maintain a higher lean growth rate and better feed conversion at heavier weights.

"Each producer needs to know the marginal feed conversion of their pigs between 230 pounds and about 280 pounds," Schinckel says. "They also need to know if their pigs are dropping in percent lean enough that the percent lean discount is changing as the pigs go to the heavier weights.

"In general, low to average percent lean pigs require more feed per pound of liveweight gain and are dropping in percent lean, and should go to the lower market weights. So pigs that stay lean to heavier weights and have a higher lean gain are a little bit less sensitive to high feed prices than pigs which are fatter and less efficient."

Eventually, market prices paid to producers are going to have to catch up with feed costs for the industry to remain viable, Schinckel says.

View the Agriculture Online story by clicking here.

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