Pig finishing should focus on animal efficiency

Pig producers need to focus on animal efficiency rather than days to market, delegates at JSR’s annual conference, Sutton Bonnington, Nottinghamshire, were told.

In finishing pigs, days to market is the primary objective. However, when those pigs have “eaten their heads off” in the finishing period then the figure is misleading, the company’s chairman Tim Rymer said.

“The feed conversion ratio would be the best way to measure animal efficiency, but we recognise this is difficult to calculate. This is why producers need to be calculating the saleable meat produced for every tonne of feed (MTF). Our target at JSR is to produce four deadweight pigs, at 80kg dead, for every tonne of feed,” he said.

And one of the easiest ways to calculate MFT is to look at slaughterhouse records and how much meat has been sold compared to the amount of feed used in the same period, added director of research and genetics at JSR Grant Walling.

“It’s only once producers start measuring feed efficiency can they look at strategies to improve. It’s important producers are paying as much attention to the efficiency of growth as they are other things. I can’t imagine there would be a transport company not knowing what the efficiency is of their vehicles and the amount of diesel used, so why should farmers ignore it,” he said.

Looking to genetics to improve feed efficiency is just one strategy, as is splitting pigs at finishing in to same sex groups, added Dr Walling. “A trial conducted at Harper Adams looking at feeding different levels of the protein lysine to same sex groups, found males required significantly higher levels of protein for optimal growth than females,” he said.

“When you look at the price of soya and you are feeding something that inevitably has a proportion excreted by females, it not only becomes hugely wasteful but, there are also environmental and financial implications of this too,” stressed Dr Walling.

And working out the rate in which feed is used is important from a resource point of view, Dr Walling continued. “With increasing pressure to meet climate change targets, farmers do not want to be seen as wasteful and the pig industry does not want to be seen as an industry simply chucking food at pigs in order to get them out of the door quicker. We need to use the resources we have better.”

Dr Walling also alluded to the threat pig farmers could be facing when they didn’t improve efficiency. “We need to be aware of our competition. While many may think this comes from similar farming practices in foreign countries, it could actually be practices producing meat but in a very different way.

“Already Dutch studies have been able to produce a pork chop from stem cells in the lab in 30 days and while it may sound extreme, it could be that in the future, countries without resources such as land, may look at these new technologies.”

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