There are 12 farms in the Swine Management Services’ (SMS) benchmarking database of 724 farms that produced 29 pigs weaned/mated female/year or more for the last four quarters. The average size of these herds is 722 mated females, with nine under 1,000 mated females and three over 1,000 mated females. These dozen farms take different routes to get this production level.

In an effort to learn more about these top-producing farms, we looked at eight production areas to see how much variation there was among the 12 farms. The eight charts attached include the entire database of 724 farms and where the 12 top farms fit in. Even these farms have the potential for producing more pigs with a few minor changes in their production management procedures.

Chart 1: Litters/mated female/year shows the SMS average at 2.37 litters with the top 12 farms’ ranging from 2.43 to 2.54, for an average of 2.50. This number is influenced by farrowing rate, days to find open females, weaning age, wean-to-service interval, and days from weaning to culling.

Chart 2: Wean-to-first service interval in the SMS database is 7.06 days, with the 12-farm average at 5.61 days, ranging from 4.10 to 6.43 days. Areas that influence these numbers are gilt development, method of feeding in lactation, the day breeders begin checking for sows in heat, and sow body condition at weaning.

Chart 3: Female death loss percent averages 7.2% in the SMS database, the top 12 farms ranging from 3.1% to 9.2%, with an average of 5.3%. This number is influenced by sow body condition and how well the farm staff is trained to find, treat and handle the animals.

Chart 4: Farrowing rate percent averaged 83.6% in the SMS database. The top 12 farms averaged 90.1% and ranged from 83.5% to 93.7%. A rule of thumb is – for each 4% improvement in farrowing rate, pigs weaned/mated female improves 1.35 pigs.

Chart 5: Pigs weaned/female farrowed averages 10.13 pigs in the SMS database. The average of the top 12 farms is 12.07 pigs, with the range being 11.68 to 12.75 pigs. For farms to wean in the high range, sows must be eating more than 15 lb. of feed per day. Some rescue decks may be needed to provide supplemental milk for the extra pigs.

Chart 6: Piglet survival averaged 79.8% in the SMS database during this period. The top 12 farms averaged 82.2%, with a range of 76.1 to 88.2%. The calculation for figuring piglet survival is: 100% minus % stillborns and % preweaning mortality. In the top 12 farms, stillborns ranged from 5.7% to 9.6% and preweaning mortality ranged from 5.8% to 15.8%. Farms with a large number of pigs born per litter can save more pigs by attending more farrowings, extending the number of hours someone is in the farrowing room, marking and spending extra time with sows that have a history of stillborns. Split suckling all pigs on Day 1, reducing chilling, and retraining farrowing room personnel to work more effectively with sows with large litters, is also helpful.

Chart 7: Total born/female farrowed in the SMS database averages 12.82 pigs, with the top 12 farms at 14.79 pigs, with a range of 14.18 to 15.91 pigs/female farrowed. To get to these large numbers, your breeding stock must first have the genetic potential. In addition, you must have a quality gilt development program, record at least one skipped heat, provide boar exposure before breeding, gilts should weigh at least 300 lb. and have at least 0.63 in. (16 mm) of backfat when bred. Farms that consistently have high total born averages have some method of allowing lactating females to eat all the feed they need each day.

Chart 8: The weaning age average for the SMS database is 19.64 days. The Top 12 farms are quite varied – ranging from 17.25 to 27.58 days of age, for an average of 19.85 days. Only two farms on this chart have an average weaning age over 21 days of age (25.67 and 27.58 days). This brings up the debate of whether to add more farrowing crates to increase weaning age and, subsequently, improve production levels.

When you look at the charts, you will see that the top 12 farms are at the top of most of the charts. However, there is variation among those farms. A farm may not have the highest total born, but had a 90% farrowing rate or higher, which allows them to produce more litters/mated female/year. There are also farms with a very high total born that do an excellent job in the farrowing house and save a very high percentage of those pigs. These charts also show us that it is possible for the top farms to achieve over 32 pigs/mated female/year with some minor changes. This reinforces that there are numerous ways to get to 30+ pigs weaned/mated female/year.

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: mark.rix@swinems.com or ron.ketchem@swinems.com.

Click to view graphs.

Mark Rix and Ron Ketchem
Swine Management Services, LLC