Farmer Focus: Penalty lessons learned on overweight pigs

In typical farmer fashion, I am going to start with a grumble about the weather. It’s been miserable hasn’t it? 

Bulbs tell us spring is just around the corner, but I think we all wish the weather would follow suit. On the plus side, the pigs are growing pretty well in contrast to those stiflingly hot weeks we had last summer.

I mentioned last month we had completed our sixth batch and were very pleased with the JSR 900 terminal sire results. However, our seventh batch of pigs sired by the JSR 400 Hampshire boar took us by complete surprise.

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When we were struggling with Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia (APP) we tried the JSR 400. This seemed to bring some resilience and was well suited to our farm.

Boar safety net

Now we are seriously considering a removal of the APP vaccine, we have reverted back to our safety net of the Hampshire boar.

We sold 944 pigs from batch seven weighing an average of 113.2kg live at 154 days old, so gaining an average of 820g/day. Of these, 835 were bacon weight pigs with the rest being sold as pork and cutters to local outlets.

These 835 bacon pigs weighed an average of 117.5kg at 157 days old with an average daily gain of 840g/day. This yielded a deadweight of 90.0kg which is quite astounding to us. 

Weight penalties

The downside? There were 100 that were overweight. We are heavily penalised 72.5p/kg on every pig more than 99kg deadweight so, despite some cracking performance, we’ve taken a hit on this. 

Furthermore, feed conversion rate (FCR) wasn’t great (heavier pigs and cold weather), so this batch won’t be our best-performing financially.  However, it will certainly form a massive part of our learning and we have already formulated a plan for batch eight which is going in two weeks.

The industry is encouraged to look at colostrum and its lifetime performance and health properties.

If we want to continue to perform well without the APP vaccine this is something we really need to get to grips with and revisit with our vet who can do analysis on colostrum intake for us.

Sophie Hope, Cheltenham, farms 380 sows indoors from farrow to finish, producing 10,000 pigs a year direct to Tesco as well as 81,000 broiler-breeders. A straw-based system is in place with boars from composite commercial lines and some Hampshire used for hardiness.