Producers can take advantage of these 10 steps to control costs in their operations, according to William Hollis, DVM, Carthage (IL) Veterinary Service (CVS) at the 18th Annual Conference Sept. 9 in Macomb, IL.

  1. Space: Achieve optimum pounds per square foot in your pig barns. Faster-growing pigs are creating a bottleneck in traditional nurseries and wean-to-finish barns. The rule of thumb used to be 20 lb./sq. ft. in the nursery, or 3 sq. ft./pig when pigs exit the nursery at 60 lb. But that rule doesn't work any more when nursery-age pigs are growing to 85 lb. in eight weeks. Move the pigs out or give them more space.

    Another solution is to get rid of junk pigs. “If you know that those pigs are not going to make it past 100 lb., remove them from the population and euthanize them,” he says. Similarly, if there are slow-growing pigs that are over 100 lb., but don't appear they will make it to 230 lb., then take them out at 175 lb. and sell them to an alternate market to optimize the pig space in your barn.

  2. Health: Producers have access to better control/cleanup plans for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and Mycoplasmal pneumonia than they did a few years ago, and it makes sense to eliminate these profit-robbers if possible. Healthy pig flows provide more flexibility in pig movement.

    Carefully evaluate the use of feedgrade medications. It's best to identify sick pigs, identify the disease, use therapeutics judiciously and work with your supervisor/veterinarian. Serum sampling 1,200 pigs can cost $300 or 25¢/pig. Overmedicating can cost 50¢/pig.

  3. Feed ingredients: Monitor every ingredient and question its importance. Spreadsheets from Kansas State University (www.KSUswine.org) can provide cost-benefit ratios for adding fat, distiller's dried grains with solubles, etc. Check corn grind, mix quality, diet budget and diet balance. Hollis says he personally witnessed a producer using screens (available at feedmills) to check the micron size of his rations. Feed micron size should be set at 700 microns or less with low variability.

  4. Feed wastage: Check and stop feed wastage and monitor compliance. Replace poor feeders and check the efficiency of feeders every day in the pens. Use a flashlight to look through the slats to look for feed wastage in the pit.

  5. Ventilation management: “Something that is commonly overlooked is that poor ventilation leads to poor growth rate, and poor growth comes with a cost,” Hollis says. Check room and pit fans and air quality management. Compare growth rates and ventilation settings from barn to barn. Check curtain maintenance.

  6. Heat conservation: Check the attic for insulation quality. Practice rodent control. Maintain building curtains. Check nursery heat settings and ramp temperatures down accordingly with pig growth.

  7. Water wastage: Checking water wastage is the simplest thing to fix and monitor and the least commonly measured. Check brackets or cups for proper location based on the size of the pig; repair leaks. Check pressure regulation and flow rate measurements. Leaky nipple waterers can cost up to $3/pig/day, as you must include the cost to apply the additional manure. “If you don't have a water meter, then you don't really have a good way of measuring water wastage,” Hollis stresses.

  8. Sort loss control: The goal here is to maximize your premiums and minimize your losses. Weigh your pigs and set targets based on premiums and the packer matrix. “Some producers pride themselves on reducing sort loss, but if you are selling to Tyson's, for instance, you may want to accept a 75¢-per-head sort loss in order to get a higher premium by selling your hogs at heavier weights,” he points out. Walk every pen and mark pigs ready for market.

  9. Optimize slaughter weight: Work with your consultant/swine veterinarian on statistical process control charts to determine optimal slaughter weights and premiums. Factor in building and feed costs. Be sure to remove junk pigs early. Measure progress monthly. Refer to Kansas State University's chart on growth prediction by season to manage seasonal variation (www.KSUswine.org).

  10. Capital conservation: Due to rising production costs, fixed costs are no longer a good measure of how to evaluate the cost structure for hog production, just as maximum pig throughput is no longer the best guarantee of a profitable return. Rather, determine the ideal pig flow based on inventory costs or the cost/pig to maintain that inventory. The higher cost of money results in a higher cost of production that needs to be evaluated in terms of performance, he explains.