‘Sticker shock’ – also well-known in swine production

Casey Bradley Swine nutrition
Photo: 123RF.com
Photo: 123RF.com

The best inspiration for improvements in the swine business are often found when doing completely other things. Swine feed technology expert Dr Casey Bradley had some great ideas whilst considering buying a new truck.

Recently my husband and I went truck shopping because we needed more ‘towing capacity’ for our future camper and pony for Arthur, which is still under consideration! But nonetheless I was tired of hearing about the lack of ‘towing capacity’ and we went in to purchase a new truck.

As it always happens we test drove the least expensive option and then the highly upgraded option with the ideal motor. Of course, it was an easy choice to make, until I experienced ‘sticker shock’, when I saw the price. I considered it carefully, and looked at the purchase as an investment and the next step in our family plans.

A real challenge in swine production

‘Sticker shock’ is also a real challenge in swine nutrition. There are so many different feed additives, and at higher inclusion rates, being used in the European Union for antibiotic free diets, whereas in the USA the initial cost is a barrier.

It also does not help that when we discuss the results of a trial we so commonly talk about Average Daily Gain (ADG), Average Daily Feed Intake (ADFI), Feed Conversion Rates (FCR), and Margin over Feed (MOF). While mortality, antibiotic treatments in the water, or injectables are not always evaluated. This is due to the fact these parameters do not have a normal distribution and are hard to analyse with ANOVA.

Vitamin supplementation

Vitamin supplementation was prime example of ‘sticker shock’ in late 2017 and early 2018, the shortage of specific vitamins gave a lot of producers ‘sticker shock’ and safety margins and/or overages became a great debate between nutritionists and finance people.

Will these short-term changes become permanent? I am unsure, but I do know why I formulated with set safety margins because everything is just fine until something goes wrong! When and if something does go wrong it’s always the feed that is the first to be blamed!

With the changes in the US Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Veterinary Feed Directives (VFDs), and pressure from our consumers, antibiotic-free is not just a fad, but a new normal for animal production. The minute we allowed ourselves to start marketing on antibiotic-free claims, we lost the war. All meat sold for consumption is antibiotic-free!

Correcting sow mortality issue with feed additives

Recently I was asked what type of blend of feed additives it would take to help nutritionally correct the sow mortality issue and/or improve lifetime performance of her offspring. First, I clarified that the perceived barrier into the market will be $ 6-10 per sow per year. I went on to say, I would imagine the cost would likely more around $ 20/sow/year. As a nutritionist, it’s tough to convince a producer that the additional cost is an investment. Producers often forget to calculate the significant loss if the pig dies after her first litter.

We not only need a better understanding of feed additive applications, but also better analytics and diagnostics to make more informative decisions from many perspectives: nutrition, health, and management. Some of these ideas may come with initial ‘sticker shock’, but could be the right investment for the future of the swine industry.

Will you be one to invest in key strategies for your system’s long-term plans?