Concentrate on feed conversion for better financial returns

Feeding herd performance is far more important to a pig unit, financially, than litter performance, according to ACMC geneticist Ed Sutcliffe.

Speaking recently at a recent producer meeting at Great Dunmow, Essex, he said that while pigs reared per sow per year wasn’t insignificant, efficient feed conversion was crucial; and the latest available figures from BPEX showed that Britain lagged behind its Continental competitors in this important trait.

Average feed conversion efficiency had deteriorated in the UK by 0.2 between 2009 and 2010 and was 0.3 behind that in Danish herds. “This is far more relevant financially than producing extra piglets,” Mr Sutcliffe added.

Britain weaned just 22 pigs per sow annually in 2010, compared with 28.1 in Denmark. Mr Sutcliffe calculated that in a 500-sow herd, increasing pigs sold from 20.76 to 26.24 would involve 114 fewer sows, saving £34,000 in feed costs, worth £3.36/pig produced.

However, improving feed conversion by 0.2 in the same herd would be worth between £4.96 and £10.29/pig, either through less feed being eaten or through faster growth, depending on how the improvement was achieved. This would be worth between £51,485 and £106,810 annually in the same herd without improved litter performance.

“While it would be unfair to say the industry has the wrong focus on sow productivity, it’s reasonable to assume that our poor feeding herd performance is what is really hurting farmers, especially given the period of high feed prices we’ve endured,” Mr Sutcliffe said.

“Housing the UK feeding herd on high-welfare straw systems comes at a high price in terms of feed conversion, profitability and, ultimately, the sustainability of the industry. However, efficient genetics can help in any production system.”

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