Expert opinion

2 commentslast update:Aug 3, 2010

Where are you in these comparisons?

Those of you who know me have learned that I collect farm figures like crazy – have done so for 40 years or more. They teach you so much about what is really happening on pig farms.

Now I am getting older and work more from home, I have more time to analyse what all these records from past and present clients reveal, especially from the past five years when things have been changing so quickly. Recently I spent a few days assembling these data into a comparative table using the figures collected by farm vists/ telephone talks/ and email 'back-and-forths' with clients as well as some long range advisory discussions. Some of the figures come from real experts – those I call my 'Top Tenpercent-ers' - I learn from them these days, not they from me.
Then there is a 'Lowest One-third' category - rather a lot of whom have needed advice.
Table 1 compares the two in physical performance terms; Table 2 puts some economics to them.
By the way, notice the better and more up-to-date and meaningful terms which I use increasingly frequently in my own work, rather than the outdated use of measurements like Food Conversion, % Mortality, Average Daily Gain., Return on Capital etc. which don't tell you enough and are sometimes misleading. Why you should use these new terms I have published over the years in books and articles.
Table 1. Physical performance differences between the top 10% and lowest one third (2004-2009).
                                                                            Top 10%    Bottom third     Difference
Pigs weaned/ sow/ year                                          30             20                  -33%
Weaning Capacity (kg)                                            502           313                 -61%
SPL* (litters)                                                          5.8           3.6                  -38%
Pig weight sold/ sow/ year (tonnes)                          2.4           1.8                  -25%
MTF** (kg)                                                             400           300                 -25%    
AMF*** (born alives)                                               0.7/12      1.1/9.6            -86%
* Sow Productive Life in litters acheived.
** Meat sold per Tonne of (weaning- slaughter) Food.
*** Absolute Mortality Figure.

Table 2. Some econometrics from the above differences.
  1. The lowest third producers, as is to be expected, were more modestly capitalized/pig, and the sum invested turned out to be around 60% less than the experts. This must have been much too low and if more had been spent in key areas to raise it to 35% less, this would have reduced the physical performance gaps by, I estimate, 25% to as much as 40% in some clear cases, such as a failure to upgrade ventilation. Used well, a little extra investment like this would have increased gross margin of the bottom third clients by at least 50%. Scarce money used properly – rather than not being used at all in over-misguided attempts to keep costs down!
  2. The difference in income from the MTF obtained worked out at 38-46%. Quite a bit of this was due to sub-standard genetics, often from the lower capitalized producers attempting to breed their own female replacements.
  3. The huge difference in AMFs (Actual Mortality Figure,which this better method of measuring % preweaning mortality brings out), was largely due to staff not being sufficiently present at farrowing.
The differences in Table 1 reduced gross margins – including the savings from lower funding costs of most of the lower category producers - by 270- 309%
 This is a massive gap which must threaten their survival, and while the average producer may just remain in business, he remains at the mercy of conditions largely beyond his control, while the best in the business will make a lot of money in future, come what may.
Where are you on this performance ladder?


  • no-profile-image

    Adrian Williams

    Some very useful data here, John. Please define the "Meat" in "Meat sold per Tonne of (weaning- slaughter) Food." Is it simply liveweight * KoP or a more sophisticated calculation to eliminate bones, skin etc? What KoP values do you use w.r.t. liveweight?
    Many thanks.

  • no-profile-image

    John Gadd

    Adrian, the word 'Meat' in MTF (Meat per Tonne of Feed) is saleable meat - what you (should) get paid for and is based on killing-out percent. KO% as you know, is carcase weight before cooling x 100 divided by the liveweight before slaughter. It ranges in NW Europe by 72 - 80% with 75-76% normal. The EU definition of 'carcase weight' is 'the body of a slaughtered pig bled and eviscerated either whole or divided down the midl-line, without tongue, bristles hooves and genitalia, but with flare fat, kidneys and diaphragm left in'. (My MTF figures are based on this). In some countries the last three may be removed, if so there is a standrd agreed carcase weight reduction varying from 0.7 kg for a hot carcase weightof up to 56 kg to 1.6 kg for 75 kg and over. There is an additional 0.3 kg for a tongue left in.
    Some countries work on cold carcase weight, and there is a standard adjustment of 2% to convert hot weight to cold weight under EU legislation

    MTF based on KO% (which you enter in from your processors returns) is child's play to calculate - no need to weigh the pigs or the food, it can all be done in the office. Read the chapters on it in either of my two pig textbooks. It is far more of a realistic figure for busy producers than just FCR. which should be left to the scientists who can calculate it properly. Farmers cannot - too busy - weigh food and pigs accurately enough! My own careful side-by-side measurements on the same pigs show that the variation between MTF/FCR is only +/- 1.5% to 2% across 30-102 kg - which I think is not enough to matter considering farmers get FCR so wrong (6% - 15%). In addition FCR is based on liveweight which is not what you get paid for.
    Wake up, pig industries and start using MTF!

Or register to be able to comment.