Elimination of variation

Looking at data

 

Variation is the curse of pig farming.  There is just one absolute criterion in pig farming, filling each shackle space available.  Failure to do so costs money.

To use each available shackle space the farm produces a batch of pigs.  Everyone batch farrow, it just depends on the time interval between each batch.

 

The batch

Defining the batch:

A group of females who come into oestrus and are mated within a time limit – for example 7 days a week.

 

Batch farrowing

The first decision of the farm is: “how often is the farm going to turn?”

Most of us utilise the week as a constant around which we operate.  On a farm the only certainty should be the day the farm weans.   All the biology of the farm rotates around this point decision.

 

Table 1

Pig Flow Event Planner

The yellow boxes can be customised to suit your farm

   Missing: Microsoft Office Web Components
 
This page requires the Microsoft Office Web Components.

Click here to install Microsoft Office Web Components..

This page also requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher.

Click here to install the latest Internet Explorer.
 

 

Most farms around the world will wean either:

Twice a week, weekly, every 10 days, every two weeks or every three weeks

 

Once this fundamental timing decision is made, all future records should be read and interpretated as a multiple of this batch time period.   Monthly does not fit into any of these numbers as the month time interval is variable over the year.

 

This batch decision also places limits on the pig’s biology.  For example, a batch weaning every 2 weeks automatically implies 3 week old piglets being weaned to allow for yearly farrowing, 4 week old piglets being weaning every 2 weeks is incompatible with the biology of the pig.

 

Table 2

Given a number of farrowing places what batch system could be accommodated?

The yellow box can be customised to suit your farm.  Towards the bottom is a option to allow you to increase or decrease the number of farrowing places available. 

   Missing: Microsoft Office Web Components
 
This page requires the Microsoft Office Web Components.

Click here to install Microsoft Office Web Components..

This page also requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher.

Click here to install the latest Internet Explorer.
 

Which is day one of the batch?

Once the farm accepts the batch concept, the batch records need to be read with the batch time issue in mind.

What is the most significant component of putting the batch together? 

It is that the females (sows and gilts) which breed together in one batch (batch x) will be the same batch of sows which farrow in a group together (batch x). In pigs a key to future production is the weaning to breeding interval, which conveniently works with the week concept.  It is essential that sows are bred within 7 days post-weaning – this ensures the maximum farrowing rate and total born.

 

Figure 1.  Wean to service interval impact on the subsequent farrowing rate %

 

Figure 2.  Wean to service impact on the subsequent total born

Therefore, depending on which day of the week the sows are weaned, within the next 7 days this group needs to be mated.  When will these sows farrow as a batch?

 

Figure 3.  The percentage of sows which are in oestrus within 7 days post-weaning

Table 3

A Calendar of events illustrating the events over the year for a one week batch farm weaning at 4 weeks of age.

For more calendars please visit this link.

 

Table 4

The weaned day and impact on breeding dates and subsequent farrowing dates

The yellow boxes can be customised to your farm circumstances

   Missing: Microsoft Office Web Components
 
This page requires the Microsoft Office Web Components.

Click here to install Microsoft Office Web Components..

This page also requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher.

Click here to install the latest Internet Explorer.
 

 

Note that the normal biology of reproduction is allowed where the main gestation length of 113 to 118 days is accommodated – mean around 115 days.  Thus if the batch of sows enter the farrowing area a week before the expected farrowing date (115 days from a Tuesday mate for a Thursday wean) these sows farrow on the Friday after entering the farrowing area.

The outstanding variables are returns and gilts which come into oestrus within the first 3 days post-weaning day.  These returns and gilts must farrow with the main batch.

(Note biological normal gestation period for pigs is 112 to 120 days).

 

What is the impact of getting the start date wrong?

The difference may be perceived to be small, but can be potentially significant when trying to analyse records and plan for the future.

For example a farm which is a weekly batch around 12 farrowing places weaning on a Thursday

 

Figure 4.

The example farm had the following pig flow plan

Farm weans on a Thursday – records start Friday and end Thursday

Batch

Served

Pregnancy

Farrow

FR %

 

# weaned

Week 3

Week 6

1

16

15

13

13

81

132

2

15

14

14

14

93

138

3

13

13

13

11

85

115

4

14

14

13

12

86

118

5

13

12

12

12

92

117

6

14

14

14

12

86

124

7

14

14

12

6

43

65

8

12

11

11

9

75

89

9

12

11

10

9

75

94

10

21

19

18

15

71

151

 

The red numbers indicate suboptimal performance.  7 batches bred too short, 4 batches farrow short.    FR% = Farrowing rate %

 

Farm weans on a Thursday – records start Monday and end Sunday

 Batch

Served

Pregnancy

Farrow

FR %

Week 3

Week 6

1

15

15

14

14

93

2

9

8

7

7

78

3

18

17

17

16

89

4

13

13

12

10

77

5

15

15

15

15

100

6

14

13

13

12

86

7

15

15

15

11

73

8

14

14

12

9

64

9

13

12

11

8

62

10

18

16

15

13

72

 

The red numbers indicate suboptimal performance.  5 batches bred too short, 5 batches farrow short.    FR% = Farrowing rate %

The averages may be the same – but we are not paid on averages – only on today’s truths.

The simple change in the start date completely changes the advice and comments given to the farm.  It is difficult even to consider the two records as coming from the same farm and represent the same week. The most important aspect is that the numbers of piglets weaned only match the records starting the day after weaning.  Planning for the number weaned determines the health for the remainder of the wean to finish period.

 

Comparison between farms

Benchmarking is a key data analysis tool that allows different farms and farming systems, throughout the world, to compare efficiencies and costs thus suggesting management changes which can impact profit.

 

To allow benchmarking, the farm needs to determine a component which will remain fixed throughout the year and between farming systems.

 

There is one factor which is constant: the number of farrowing places per batch.

 

Seasonal issues affect the reproduction of the sow – primarily through summer infertility and autumn abortion syndrome which causes a predictable reduction in the farrowing rate % over the year.

 

Seasonal issues affect the growth of the finishing pig, as heat reduces feed intake and thus growth rates.  Thus to finish a batch of pigs in the summer to a fixed slaughter weight takes more time than a similar batch progressing through the farm in the winter months.

 

Table 5

The basics of pig production

The yellow boxes can be customised to fit your farm

For week numbers please see table 3

   Missing: Microsoft Office Web Components
 
This page requires the Microsoft Office Web Components.

Click here to install Microsoft Office Web Components..

This page also requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher.

Click here to install the latest Internet Explorer.
 

 

Avoid parameters based on the sow

The number of sows on a unit varies over the year.  Therefore, the sow cannot be used as a measure of success.  In addition, the weaning age significantly alters any calculation based on number of sows.

 

Table 6

Pigs per sow per year - what exactly are we measuring?

   Missing: Microsoft Office Web Components
 
This page requires the Microsoft Office Web Components.

Click here to install Microsoft Office Web Components..

This page also requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher.

Click here to install the latest Internet Explorer.
 

None of these measurements are considering what the farmer is actually paid for – dead weight.

Therefore, the pigs/sow/year number can be easily manipulated depending on what parameter we are quoting, total born through to numbers finished.  Different weaning ages cannot be compared using pigs per sow per year.  The farm which weans at a later age has more sows.  But the weaned pigs are heavier thus reducing feed to finish requirements.  The heavier weaner may have better post-weaning growth and performance.  The extra farrowing room cost also needs to be offset against the need for an extra nursery room.  None of these parameters can be taken into account with pigs/sow/year.  Parameters based on the sow are often encouraged because it allows control of non productive days.  But non productive sow days should have no impact on finishing slaughterhouse income.

 

Table 7

How much does it cost to have a sow on the farm?

The yellow boxes can be customised to your farm

   Missing: Microsoft Office Web Components
 
This page requires the Microsoft Office Web Components.

Click here to install Microsoft Office Web Components..

This page also requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher.

Click here to install the latest Internet Explorer.
 

 

This indicates that it is not the sow that matters its the empty farrowing place and ultimately empty shackle space that matters.

 

Avoid parameters based on the size of the finishing area

The number of finishing rooms required varies over the year as the pigs in the summer eat less and grow more slowly.  Therefore, as table 5 demonstrates; to finish each batch to the same slaughter weight requires more time in the hot summer than in the cool winter.

 

The size of each finishing room is a set number, but this number is not the same throughout the world.  For example in the European Union a 110 kg pig requires 0.65 m2.  In Australia the same pig requires 0.03*(110)0.67= 0.7m2, in Canada the pig would require 0.81m2 if fully slatted, 0.9m2 if partially slatted and 1.03m2 if solid flooring; whereas in the United States, the pig requires 8

 sq feet (0.74 m2). In other countries there are no regulations or legal requirements.  But even so, the requirement of flooring per pig does vary tremendously depending on the environment.  The less environmental control the more floor space required:

 

Full environmental control with slats < Curtain sided partially slatted < Straw based shelter m2 per pig

 

Figure 5.  Various finishing flooring options

Fully slatted tunnel ventilated

Partially slatted curtain sided

Solid flooring natural ventilation

 

Table 8

The floor as an assessment of pig production

The yellow boxes can be customised to suit your farm

   Missing: Microsoft Office Web Components
 
This page requires the Microsoft Office Web Components.

Click here to install Microsoft Office Web Components..

This page also requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher.

Click here to install the latest Internet Explorer.
 

But this also does not account for what the farmer is actually paid for – dead weight.  Regulated floor space is based on live weight of the pig.

Pork pigs, cull pigs or pigs poorly selected at finishing all count as a full pig in the farm records – but their income does not.

 

The batch farrowing place

The farrowing place is the one unit of stability on the farm which does not vary with season or with the location on the planet.  Therefore, all records should pivot around the batch farrowing place.

 

Once the farm embraces the batch farrowing place as the record cornerstone, comparison between farms and systems throughout the year becomes easy, as targets can be set which are applicable to any system with the same batch farrowing place set up.

 

Table 9

Example of how costs can be examined using batch farrowing places

The yellow boxes can be customised to suit your farm

   Missing: Microsoft Office Web Components
 
This page requires the Microsoft Office Web Components.

Click here to install Microsoft Office Web Components..

This page also requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher.

Click here to install the latest Internet Explorer.
 

 

This provides a guide to the opportunity available to the farm, assuming that the production targets are achieved – in particular that all the pigs reach the required live weight and conformation.

Using batch farrowing place provides an optimum output targets, irrespective of weaning age or sow numbers.  Obviously, optimal output/profit potential is affected by irresponsibly increasing sow numbers, but using the batch farrowing place can also account for wasted food or other management factors in cost assessments.   Batch assessments allow for comparison between farms with the same potential.

 

The batch farrowing place can assist in the investigation of cost what if? – Example weaning age

 

Table 10

Cost-difference between weaning ages

The yellow boxes can be customised to your farm circumstances

   Missing: Microsoft Office Web Components
 
This page requires the Microsoft Office Web Components.

Click here to install Microsoft Office Web Components..

This page also requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher.

Click here to install the latest Internet Explorer.
 

This exercise demonstrates that there is a positive advantage in weaning later – purely based on the saving of feed incurred by the heavier weaner.  In the exercise above, all other finishing parameters remained the same.  If post-weaning performance was improved, the benefits would be even greater.  This again demonstrates the relative small impact of sows on the overall performance of a herd.  The herd weaning at 4 weeks of age would have a lower pigs per sow per year see table 6, but more profit.  What matters more, profit or fancy production targets!

 

 

Summary

 

Impact of not looking at data properly

Empty farrowing places – empty grow finish pens – empty shackles: - Increased cost of production

Figure 6.  Empty farrowing places

Figure 7.  Empty finishing pens

Figure 8.  Empty shackles

 

To reduce variation in how we look at records:

 

  1. Determine your batch time and then compile all records as multiple of this time value.  Do not use a month to assess your pig farm.
  2. Start the batch time the day after weaning.  Thus Thursday weaning results in day 1 being a Friday.
  3. Output per farrowing place per batch is a measure by which farm productivity can be measured which is not affected by seasonal issues, the location or farming type.

 

The pig industry needs to farm for profit not production targets

 

Performance does not equal profits

 

 

Space requirement references:

European Union:  Minimum standards for the protection of pigs 91/630/EEC

Australia: Model Code of Practice 2008

Canada: Animal Care Assessment 2006

United States of America: Swine Care Handbook