15 March 2002

Walking a tightrope…

EASTON Lodge pig unit has recently taken up a new slaughter pig contract with Allied Livestock Marketing of East Yorks, writes Jasper Renold. The company markets all our pigs with George Adams of Spalding, Lincs.

Under the new contract, the weight range of pigs has been extended from 82kg to 85kg deadweight. A top bonus of 5p/kg deadweight over base price is earned if 65% or more of pigs in the consignment has a probe of 12mm or less.

Pigs with a probe of 13mm or 14mm receive 2p/kg, but those with higher scores get heavily penalised.

Consignments with fewer than 65% of pigs in the top grade are not as heavily penalised as in the previous contract.

Over the past year, we have done reasonably well in earning the maximum bonus on the top grade pigs with 74.5% having a probe of 12mm or less. The average weight for the year was 73.2kg deadweight and the average probe was 11.3mm.

For the new contract, we tried to increase the average weight by using a slightly different ration to improve growth weight, with 0.3 MJ extra digestible energy and 0.05 extra lysine giving 13.3 MJ of DE and 1.2% lysine. We also raised the cut-off point when the fast growing heavier pigs are picked out 11 days before slaughter from 95kg to 98kg liveweight.

The six loads sent before Jan 21 averaged 11.5mm and 72.6kg deadweight compared with the following six loads. Those loads, delivered after the new contract came into effect, achieved 11.64mm p2 and 74.8kg deadweight.

Unfortunately, we suffered wild fluctuations in weight and probes after the changes. That forced us back to the drawing board to reconsider, with some more detailed help from PIC.

In fact, the pig unit walks a tightrope with regard to weight, grading, carcass value and cost of live weight gain.

The graph illustrates how sensitive our bonus payments are to changes in the p2 measurement. Bonus payments fall away steeply when the p2 climbs above 11.5mm. The extra value from the heavier carcass, net of the extra feed cost, is more than outweighed by the reduction in the bonus payments.

During the last five weeks of pig growth, we are reconsidering a two-feed system and whether we should change the type of semen we use.

We look forward to monitoring pig performance and profitability, as influenced by the new contract, over the coming months. &#42

Sandwich year student Marcus Crookes came to us last July from Brackenhurst Agricultural College and will gain experience in both arable and pig enterprises during his stay with us. Marcus is our 13th student to work at Easton Lodge and while his successor has been appointed we wonder if the supply is drying up?