Tips on closing the gap in pig performance

Improve performance, get more value from the pigs you produce or access additional income through renewable energy – whichever you chose, there are ways to boost income from pig production.

That was the message from a discussion forum on “Closing the gap” at the Pig and Poultry Fair 2012, where three members of the supply chain gave their views on improving returns.


Pig producer Chris Leamon, from A and B Leamon, explained how installing a biomass boiler on his 320-sow unit had the potential to bring a guaranteed annual income of £12,582.

“We’ll get paid to produce heat for our weaners, finishers and a number of farm houses. And once you’ve signed up, you’ll get income for the next 20 years, guaranteed.”

Mr Leamon is installing the boiler having looked at the benefits of the Renewables Heat Incentive Scheme. Being close to a town has allowed the farm access to woodchip from four local tree surgeons, as well as grass seed screenings.

“The total costs of installing the boiler is about £106,000, but we hope to pay this back in seven years.”

He said the investment not only positioned him well for the future, when renewables were likely to come more to the fore, but also helped significantly with the bank balance.

Adding value to the pig

Mike Wijnberg, supply chain manager for Tulip, told visitors there were three ways to improve grading specification:

• Choose a suitable outlet for your finisher

• Work with the processor to improve percentage within grade Q

• At least intermittently weigh your finished pigs – this will allow producers to get their eye in for selection and check what kill-out you’re getting.

Referring to a number of farmer examples, Mr Wijnberg said some producers within the same supply matrix were finishing pigs within a tight band and consequently ensuring 98% of finishers were Q grade. As a result, they were only losing 0.37p/kg.

However, some were losing 1.04p/kg or as much as 5.23p/kg by failing to finish pigs with a tight weight range.

“There’s lots of money to be saved – it’s all about getting information and seeing where you can improve,” he said.

Mr Wijnberg explained there was real benefit to be had from visiting the abattoir, and particularly by taking the vet with you to watch pigs being killed.

“There’s a lot of information available that can be fed back to the producer and analysed with the vet.

“There are real benefits to be had from reducing condemnation in the abattoir. At 147p/kg pig price, when losing 1% through condemnation, that’s a cost of £235 on 200 pigs,” he explained.

Improving production

If you don’t take your staff on the journey to improve production, you won’t get there, said pig producer and 2011 Farmers Weekly Pig Farmer of the Year, Stuart Bosworth.

He explained how staff, genetics, health, feed, records and innovation were all crucial in achieving top productivity.

For Mr Bosworth, changing dietary electrolyte balance had resulted in big benefits in terms of piglet performance in his herd of 270 sows. “Piglet growth rates have been phenomenal and pig intakes have been greatly improved since looking at electrolyte balance,” he said.

The farm has also started gradual weaning to help address the post-weaning growth dip. “It is early days as to whether this is definitely a positive, but you have to keep trying new things to keep ahead and try and close the gap.”

He also stressed the importance of acting on good records. “We look at records on a weekly basis and try and plan culls in advance. We want to identify older sows that we don’t want to see again – they’re the ones that don’t rear as many.

“A lot producers spend time keying in records, but not enough time getting them out.”

More from Pig and Poultry Fair 2012

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