The average 2,500-sow farm in the Swine Management Services (SMS) Benchmarking database carries out about $680,000 worth of dead pigs from the farrowing house each year. Realistically, how many dollars worth of those pigs could be captured and what are you willing to spend to capture a portion of those dollars?

The answer might be as simple as hiring a good consultant to analyze your records. Farm visits to review the standard operating procedures (SOP's) and help train the barn staff could be beneficial. You might need to replace staff, hire more staff or make facility changes. And, once the changes are made, it is important to monitor the impact of those changes and provide feedback to the farm employees.

We selected 493 farms – a total inventory of 876,101 mated females – for this article. Farms had to be in full production (no startups or repopulations), average at least 20 pigs weaned/mated female/year (PW/MF/Y), with no parity segregation or major disease breaks. Farms were broken down by PW/MF/Y as follows:

  • More than 30

  • 28 or more but less than 30

  • 26 or more but less than 28

  • 24 or more but less than 26

  • 22 or more but less than 24

  • 20 or more but less than 22

Table 1 lists the number of farms per category and total number of mated females. The farms range in size from 300 to 5,000+ in all category breakdowns, therefore, size is not a limiting factor.

As the table shows, 13 farms weaned more than 30 pigs with an average of 31.26 pigs weaned / mated female / year with an average total pigs born of 14.59 pigs/litter and a piglet survival of 88.2%. The bottom 34 farms – those with 20 PW/MF/Y but less than 22 averaged 21.32 PW/MF/Y and averaged 12.06 pigs/litter and a survival rate of 80%.

How did we get the loss of $1,541,360,000?
Hypothetically, if all of the pigs born (total born/mated female/year) were saved, which would be 32.02 minus 25.40 pigs, these farms would have saved 6.62 PW/MF/Y. At a value of $40/weaned pig, that’s $264.80/sow/year. If there are 5.82 million sows in the United States, that’s a tab of $1.54 billion lost.

Chart 1 shows the distribution of PW/MF/Y with SMS Benchmarking at 24.78 pigs (blue) from 811 farms found in Table 2 vs. System Benchmark (red) with 493 farms averaging 26.63 PW/MF/Y. Again you see the large variation in farm production from less than 15 PW/MF/Y vs. the top 13 farms at more than 30 PW/MF/Y.

In Charts 2 through 6, we have highlighted the top 13 farms showing the last 12 quarters of production. Three years ago, these farms started out at 27.79 PW/MF/Y and improved to 31.11 PW/MF/Y the last quarter. These farms have seen an increase on total pigs born from 13.83 pigs to 14.63 pigs – a gain of only 0.80 pigs/litter during the 12-quarter period.

So how did they improve PW/MF/Y by 3.32 pigs over these 12 quarters? The answer can be found in Charts 4-6. Piglet survival (preweaning and stillborn losses) improved from 83.2% to 88.5% or 5% fewer dead pigs. Stillborns dropped from 6.5% to 4.3%, while preweaning death loss dropped from 10.2% to 7.2%. These two data points combined registered a 5% improvement in piglet survival for these farms.

If we contrast these farms with those at the lower end of the database (more than 20 but less than 24) shown in Charts 7-11 (151 farms) during the last 12 quarters, PW/MF/Y ranged from 22.31 to 22.82. Their gain over three years was 0.51 PW/MF/Y compared to the top 13 farms which gained 3.32 pigs.

Total Born/Female Farrowed in Chart 8 shows that over 12 quarters the lower-end farms improved only 0.28 pigs vs. the top 13 farms with 0.80 pigs.

The biggest difference is in Piglet Survival (Chart 4 vs. Chart 9) which did not improve for the lower-end farms. If we look at Charts 10 and 11, there is a nice, slight drop in stillborns (from 7.5 to 7.1%) and preweaning death loss moving slightly higher, from 12.1 to 12.5%.

So what do the top 13 farms know that the lower-end farms do not? As noted, the wide range of farm size (500 sows to more than 5,000 sows), means farms used genetics and nutritional programs from several different companies. The top 13 farms used genetics from five companies. These farms have been making changes to how they manage the increasing number of pigs born.

Do you have a Day 1 pig care person on your farm? It is this person’s job to assist as many sows as possible during farrowing to lower stillborns and reduce chilling of the pigs by drying off the pigs using a towel or a drying agent to help pigs nurse quicker. If you are attending less than 80% of the sows at farrowing during the day, you need to do the math. It may be worth your while to have someone attending farrowings in the afternoon and evening during the heavy farrowing days.

At SMS, we continually look for new ways to analyze data and present it in new ways to make it easier for the farm employees to understand, see the problem areas and then adopt new ideas on how to manage the high-producing females that the genetic companies have available.

Previous Production Preview columns can be found

Key Performance Indicators

Tables 2 and 3 (below) provide 52-week and 13-week rolling averages for key performance indicators (KPI) of breeding herd performance. These tables reflect the most current quarterly data available and are presented with each column. The KPI’s can be used as general guidelines to measure the productivity of your herd compared to the top 10% and top 25% of farms, the average performance for all farms, and the bottom 25% of farms in the SMS database.

If you have questions or comments about these columns, or if you have a specific performance measurement that you would like to see benchmarked in our database, please address them to: mark.rix@swinems.comor