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Pork Producers Targeting Heavier Market Weights Cautioned to Avoid Crowding

22 November 2012, at 9:18am

CANADA - A feed research scientist with Alberta Agriculture cautions pork producers who target heavier market weight hogs risk reduced productivity if their pigs become over crowded, writes Bruce Cochrane.

Market hogs have typically been marketed at 90 to 95 kilograms dressed weight but, to dilute labor and plant operating costs over more kilograms, processors are looking for heavier carcase weights.

Dr Eduardo Beltranena, a feed research scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, points out there are higher feed costs associated with heavier market weights, turn over in the barn is reduced and, if crowding occurs, productivity especially among gilts will fall.

Dr Eduardo Beltranena-Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development:

Because we're going to heavier carcass weights they do need to stay longer in the barns. Crowding before was basically one third of the grow-finisher period and now we're seeing crowding, as much as half of their life in finisher barns pigs can be crowded.

It's the period from the point in which pigs become crowded and the space becomes a limitation in the pen, which can be also worsened by restriction in terms of feeder space.

It's most critical from the time the pigs become crowded until the first pull when some of the hogs in the pen are removed and therefore more space is created for the remaining pigs.

This crowding primarily impacts feed intake so we see a decrease in feed intake. Because gilts take longer to reach market weight the feed restriction is worse in gilts than it is in barrows and therefore it affects back fat more in gilts than in barrows.

Dr Beltranena says when gilts are restricted too much their back fat falls quite a bit and they start dropping out of the weight ranges that fall within the cores of the marketing grids.

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