The Swine Management Services (SMS) Benchmarking database has grown from 150 farms and 250,000 females six years ago to 770 farms and 1,300,000 females today. We have some key production data on U.S. and Canadian breeding herds dating back to January 2005.

As the database has grown, we have seen changes in the size of the farms that rank in the Top 10%. When the database was started, the Top 10% was dominated by farms with less than 800 sows. In the past year, there have been many large farms that are averaging 27-29 pigs weaned/mated female/year (PW/MF/Y). This has changed the makeup of the Top 10% farms. There are 77 farms in the Top 10%, with an average size of 1,143 sows. One of those farms has over 5,000 sows and is averaging more than 28 PW/MF/Y.

Chart 1 shows the trend in average parity over the last six years, moving from 2.4 in 2005 to 2.7, currently. The Top 10%, 25%, 50% and All Herds average is determined by pigs weaned/mated female (PW/MF). During 2005 to 2007, the Top 10% farms had an average parity just over 2.7, indicating older females are needed to gain a Top 10% ranking. Over the last 2+ years, all farms have allowed their sow herds to grow older. However, this aging may have been driven by economics rather than a goal to move parity average higher.

Table 1 lists 52-week benchmarking data. Production numbers show the Top 10% have an average parity of 2.70 producing 27.91 PW/MF/Y. Additionally, the Top 25% parity average is 2.75 with 26.73 PW/MF/Y; All Farms’ parity average is 2.73, producing 23.89 PW/MF/Y, and the Bottom 25% shows an average parity at 2.73, producing 20.60 PW/MF/Y. Clearly, there is little difference in average parity when farms are broken out by pigs weaned/mated female/year.

Digging Deeper
An in-depth analysis of the parity structure and the impact on sow performance is reflected in Chart 2. This chart includes data from 110 farms and 221,000 mated females. The solid black line is the average.

In this dataset, average parity is 2.74 and average farm size is 2,011 females. When we broke down the data by parity, the average farm had 20.2% Parity 0 females, 16.9% Parity 1 females, 15.4% Parity 2 females, 13.5% Parity 3 females, 11.2% Parity 4 females, 9.3% Parity 5 females, 7.0% Parity 6 females and 6.6% females that were Parity 7 or higher. This chart reinforces that there is a lot of variation in the farms’ parity structure.

From a management standpoint, it is important to work with your genetic supplier to establish the best parity structure that maximizes production and controls genetic costs on a per-weaned-pig basis. Over the next year, it will be interesting to see if average parity drops as cash flows improve and cull sows continue to sell for record high prices.

Sow replacement Rates
Chart 3 is a scatter graph that shows the wide variation in female replacement rates on 110 farms during the most recent 52 weeks of data. These herds averaged 43.5%, and ranged from just 10% to 78%. At the lower end, replacement rates were likely driven by lack of cash flow. At the higher end, greater turnover may have been driven by goals to keep productivity up.

When we put this chart together we did not expect to see this much variation. Our six years of data shows more of the larger farms now make up the Top 10 and Top 25% rankings. It is very difficult to establish what the “ideal” parity structure should be. Whether parity structure is driven by a goal to keep an organized parity structure or the price of cull sows and cash flow is open to debate.

Key Performance Indicators
Tables 1 and 2 (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: or

Click to view graphs.

Mark Rix and Ron Ketchem
Swine Management Services, LLC