Swine Management Services (SMS) launched the farm benchmarking program in 2005 with about 150 farms, totaling 250,000 sows. The program has grown to more than 750 farms with an inventory of 1.3 million breeding females in the United States and Canada.

At first, we ranked the farms by pigs weaned/mated female/year (PW/MF/Y) using the equations developed and finalized by the National Pork Producers Council in 1999. Over the years, we have had many conversations with veterinarians, consultants and producers about the need for an index that included more than just pigs weaned/mated female/year.

Three years ago, we introduced the SMS Production Index. In developing the index, we started with the production numbers we look at first when analyzing a farm, then tested them to see how strongly they correlated with a farm’s performance. In the end, we settled on eight performance indicators for the SMS Production Index:

• Pigs weaned/mated female/year;

• Litters/mated female/year;

• Wean-to 1st service interval,

• Pigs weaned/mated female farrowed;

• Female death loss %;

• Farrowing rate %;

• Total born/female farrowed, and

• Piglet survival %.

Piglet survival, a production number we created several years ago, is calculated as 100% - stillborn % - preweaning mortality %. The thinking behind this new calculation was that all farms do not define stillborns the same way. Many producers still call a pig that took at least one breath a stillborn. It is our philosophy that all stillborn pigs are potential live born pigs. This has been borne out by the dramatic improvement seen on many farms when more farrowings were attended. In some cases, stillborn rates have been cut in half. Eleven farms have stillborn rates under 4%.

Chart 1 (attached) is the SMS Executive Summary – the first page of a six-page report. This page is designed so the farm staff can quickly see which production areas are good and which need their attention. Because we are able to rank the farms by each of the production areas, each farm is given a percentile number for ranking and comparison. The “speedometer” layout of the graphs is designed to show how fast a farm is running compared to the other farms in the database. We have had several owners of multi-farm systems tell us they do not need to look any further than the first page to see what is going on at each farm.

The farms selected for this article had three years of production data with more than 22 PW/MF/Y. In all, we had 474 farms with a mated female inventory of 847,000 females, ranging in size from 300 to 6,000 sows, with an average of 1,787 mated females.

Table 1 features production data from the 474 farms. We used a three-year average from each farm to build the table. As you can see, we broke the farms up by SMS Production Index: 96 farms with an index more than 70; 140 farms less than 70 but more than 50; 104 farms less than 50 but more than 35; and 134 farms less than 35. The three-year average index ranged from 7.69 to the top farm at 96.58. PW/MF/Y had an overall average of 24.98 pigs with a range of 22.0 to 33.08 pigs weaned. Clearly, there is a wide range between the best and the worst farms.

Charts 2 through 9 are scatter graphs showing the amount of variation and the trend lines for the eight production areas in the SMS Production Index. Farms are ranked by SMS Production Index on the X axis and the production numbers on the Y axis.

In Chart 2, as the SMS Production Index increases, PW/MF/Y likewise increases. The farms are tightly clustered around the trend line with the exception of the farms at the very top. Five farms averaged more than 30 PW/MF/Y for the three-year period.

Chart 3 shows that litters/mated female/year (L/MF/Y) has a strong trend line upward as the SMS Production Index increases, but with more variation than Chart 2. To improve L/MF/Y, the farm staff needs to work to improve farrowing rate, do a better job of finding sows that recycle, get weaned sows bred back as soon as possible after weaning, and cull non-productive females as soon as possible.

Chart 4 shows wean-to-1st service interval, again showing a lot of variation from the trend line. Farms ranged from 4.37 days to 16.59 days to find weaned sows in heat. This shows that even with higher days to cycle, a farm can still have a high SMS Production Index.

In Chart 5, pigs weaned/female farrowed (PW/FF) has a very strong trend line. The farms with an index of more than 70 weaned 11.19 pigs/litter, on average, with the top farm at 12.76 pigs/litter. Farms with an index of less than 35 weaned only 9.94 pigs/litter, on average, with a few at 9.24 pigs/litter.

Chart 6 Female Death Loss again shows a lot of variation from the trend line. The data base had an average of 7.7% with a range of a low of 2.2% to a high of 17.4% for a three-year average.

Chart 7, farrowing rate percentage shows a very strong trend line. Farms with the highest farrowing rates were the top-indexing farms. The dataset ranged from 73.7% to 95.9%, with an average of 85.9%. The farms with an index more than 70 had an average farrowing rate of 89.7% vs. the farms indexing less than 35 at 83.5% farrowing rate. Remember, each 4% improvement in farrowing rate improves PW/MF/Y about 1.35 pigs.

Chart 8, total born/female farrowed (TB/FF), shows a strong trend line with the top-indexing farms having the highest total pigs born/litter and a range of 10.76 to 15.65 pigs born/female farrowed for all farms. The top 96 farms averaged 13.77 pigs/litter, while the bottom 134 farms averaged 12.81 total born/litter. To improve total born/litter, it is important that gilts have one skipped heat before breeding whenever possible, have boar exposure for at least 14 days, and weigh at least 300 lb. at first mating. To be a top farm, Parity 1 females need to have 13 or more pigs (total born) in their first litter.

Chart 9, piglet survival (formula above), again shows a lot of variation. The top farm recorded 92.8% piglet survival rate, while the bottom farm had only 71.5%. The average for the 474 farms was 79.9%. The average farm loses 2.84 pigs from birth to weaning. However, the trend line shows that in order to be a top-indexing farm requires a plan to lower stillborns and preweaning death losses. This may require more assistance (more hours) in the farrowing room, drying-off pigs at birth (towel-drying or drying agent), and making sure all pigs get their share of colostrum as soon as possible.

At SMS, we are always looking for new ways to analyze performance data and present it in new ways that will make it easier for the farm staff to understand, so they can manage their top-producing females.

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 drop us an e-mail: mark.rix@swinems.com or ron.ketchem@swinems.com.


Click to view graphs.

Mark Rix and Ron Ketchem
Swine Management Services LLC