As we look closer at the impact of farm size on various performance measures, we decided to zero in on total pigs born, pigs born live, pigs weaned and piglet survival percentage broken into stillborns and pre-weaning death loss percentages.

The farms selected for the data set had to be in production for over 3 years and weaning a minimum of 22 pigs/mated female/year during the prescribed time period. There were 397 farms out of 619 (64%) that met these criteria.

The Swine Management Services, LLC data set was divided into four groups:

• Under 1,000 mated females (141 farms) with average size at 650 females;

• 1,000 to 1,999 mated females (130 farms) with average size at 1,393 females;

• 2,000 to 2,999 mated females (94 farms) with average size at 2,579 females; and

• Over 3,000 mated females (32) with average size at 4,596 females.
Table 1 is a breakdown of production numbers for all farms in the four group sizes noted above and Table 2 is a breakdown of the Top 10% farms for the same four group sizes. Data represents 52- week averages.

Looking total born/female farrowed and born live/female farrowed, by farm size, there are no differences except a slight advantage to farms with 3,000 females or larger. As we analyze the data in Table 2 – the Top 10% of farms – total born/female farrowed for the two smaller farm categories sits at 14.04 and 14.11 pigs vs. the two larger farm categories, which drops to 13.32 and 13.50 total born/female farrowed – a difference of 0.79 total born/female farrowed for farms with 1,000-1,999 mated females vs. farms with 2,000-2,999 mated females.

We are somewhat surprised that the averages for these key performance indicators is so close amongst farms sizes. However, when you look at the Top 10% production numbers, you’ll note that the farms under 1,000 mated females are performing the best and the potential for 30 pigs/mated female/year is there.

The smaller farms have fewer employees and most probably have a vested interest in how the farm performs. Farms under 1,000 mated females and 1,000-1,999 mated females both start out with 14+ total born/female farrowed, but they also have 2.1% lower piglet survival (a combination of % stillborns and % preweaning death loss) . The 1,000-1,999 mated female farms give a 0.37 pigs weaned/female farrowed advantage to the under 1,000 farms and 0.07 more litters/mated female/year means 1.24 more pigs weaned/mated female/year for the smaller farms.

The advantage to the smaller farms is even larger when compared to the two larger categories of farms. Interestingly, the 2-3 employees on the smaller farms are outperforming the 10+ employees on the bigger farms.

We have seen farms with a 50% turnover of employees per year. A quick way to track employee turnover is count the number of W-2’s printed each year. Without a stable work force it is harder to implement some of the management practices that separate the top farms from the average farm in production. Farms need to have training as a part of their standard operating procedures (SOPs) if they plan to keep employees and implement ideas that will improve production or lower costs to raise a pig. One of the good production practices in the PQA Plus certification program is the “Develop, Implement and Document an Animal Caregiver Training Program” (see As you update your PQA Plus certification, this would be a good time to review, update and implement employee training programs.

Key Performance Indicators
Tables 3 and 4 (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

Mark Rix and Ron Ketchem
Swine Management Services LLC

Click to view graphs.