Hog producers who survived the recent acute depression say researchers should get with it. Most of the producers who are surviving are businessmen who are good money managers, not just hog enthusiasts.
Producers are reminding researchers that they pay for their work - through their taxes. And, producers remind them further, profit is their lifeblood. For an applied researcher to say an idea worked by a certain physical improvement (beyond the laws of chance) is not sufficient these days, they argue.
Producers want to know the likely cost-effectiveness revealed in the trials. Perhaps the outcome costs too much, thus overriding the physical benefits.
Scientist's Reply Researchers remind producers that their job is to reveal what happened, and its degree of probability. To apply economics to research findings is too variable, too unscientific. Researchers say they are better employed in discovering the truth, leaving producers to do the sums.
I accept this, but I am inclined to side with the producers. This is not to belittle the applied researcher's contribution to improved productivity. Nevertheless, I wish academics would go the extra mile and try to attach economics to their findings.It doesn't matter that these assumptions may not b e yours or mine. If the author states the assumptions clearly and provides a calculation matrix, then it is easy for anyone to substitute their own numbers (Table 1).
Adding economic assumptions will get more papers read, good ideas or products will be tried out sooner and more profit will be made.
Examples are the trials involving young pigs, carried to weaning or end-of-nursery stage. Positive research results often exasperate my clients. They ask what sort of benefit did that head start give them at slaughter? The report doesn't give those producers a clue. They sell meat, they argue, not 55-lb. pigs.
Whenever possible, research involving pigs in the early production stages should be taken on, under identical conditions, to slaughter. Then a cost-benefit calculation should be done.
Economically, an imperceptible (but statistically significant) performance advantage early on can be a very worthwhile savings at slaughter. I have examples of equivalent cost reductions in feed between 12% and 18% by slaughter, where physical improvements were only 5%.
If researchers, especially department heads who control the orientation of research, would like to comment on these suggestions coming out of Europe calling for applied research to "go that extra mile," I would be delighted to hear them.
Comments may be sent via e-mail to Gadd at: [email protected]