Feeding herd performance is far more important to a pig unit, financially, than litter performance.
While pigs reared per sow per year is not insignificant, efficient feed conversion is crucial. But the latest available figures from BPEX show that Britain lags behind its continental competitors in this important trait, Ed Sutcliffe, geneticist with pig-breeding company, ACMC, told a meeting of farmers at Great Dunmow, in Essex.
Average feed conversion efficiency had deteriorated in the UK by 0.2 between 2009 and 2010 and was a 0.3 behind that in Danish herds. “This is far more relevant financially than producing extra piglets,” said Mr Sutcliffe.
Britain weaned just 22 pigs per sow annually in 2010, compared with 28.1 in Denmark. He 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 per pig produced.
However, improving feed conversion by 0.2 in the same herd would be worth between £4.96 and £10.29 per 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 is reasonable to say that our poor feeding herd performance is what is really hurting farmers, especially given the period of high feed prices we have endured. 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,” he said. “However, efficient genetics can help in any production system.”