Tracking increased productivity by percentile ranking

Average increase in the year-on-year pigs weaned/litter in the MetaFarms database was smaller than USDA reports.

May 1, 2024

5 Min Read
National Pork Board

By Paul Faris, on behalf of MetaFarms

The March USDA Hogs and Pigs Report confirmed economists’ expectations that we are producing more pigs off a smaller breeding herd. For the period December 2023 through February 2024 the headline figure was average pigs weaned per litter at 11.53 compared to a year ago number of 11.02 for a higher than expected 4.6% increase.

How does the MetaFarms database compare to the USDA figures? Are all the quadrants of the database increasing at the same rate or as some might predict is the bottom quarter improvement greater due to lower producing sows leaving production or improving porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus infection rates?

The graph below details the key production parameters by quarter for the last nine quarters categorized by the percentage in each individual category.


Pigs weaned/mated female/year

In the MetaFarms benchmark the pigs weaned/mated female/year number registered an average of 25.6 pigs for January-March 2023 and increased to 26.2 for the same period in 2024. An increase of 2.3%. This increase was concentrated in the bottom 25% improvement.

Pigs weaned/sow weaned

Similar to the USDA report numbers the database showed pigs weaned/sow weaned increased in quarter 1 of 2024. First quarter 2023 registered an average of 11.14 and increased to 11.40 for the same period in 2024. This 2.3% increase was smaller than USDA increase of 4.6% and in line with the database increase in pigs weaned/mated female/year of 2.3%. All quartiles showed year-on-year improvement.

Bottom 25 percentile farms increased from 10.56 to 10.79, middle 50% farms increased from 11.29 to 11.52 while top 25% farms increased from 12.09 to 12.15. The bottom 25% and middle 50% of farms in this category both increased .23 pigs while the top 25% only improved .06 pigs. Both the pigs weaned/mated female/year and pigs weaned/sow weaned numbers would point towards the bottom 50% driving the productivity increase rather than the top 25% dramatically raising the bar.


Litters/mated female/year

Year on year the litters/mated female/year number was flat at 2.24 in 2023 and 2024. This average was little changed from 2022 which posted an average of 2.23. Statistically the bottom 25% increased .02 from 2.16 to 2.18 while the top 25% showed a decrease of .02 from 2.45 to 2.43. This would seem to indicate that the trend towards open pen gestation hasn’t decreased litters/sow/year but may have impeded any progress in this area. The trend towards older weaning ages and batch farrowing might also be considerations.

Total born

The average total born of all farms increased .2 pigs from 15.4 to 15.6 from quarter one in 2023 to 2024 with the bottom 25% at 14.8 compared to the top 25% at 16.1 for a range of 1.3 pigs/litter. The 2022 average was at 15.2 so the trend would appear to be an increase of .2 pigs per year in the total born number.

Pre-wean mortality %

The average pre-wean mortality showed a very slight first quarter decrease year on year with 2023 at 18.3% and 2024 at 18.1%. The bottom 25% in this category showed a very small improvement from 20.2% to 20.0%, while the middle 50% was unchanged at 16.3% and the top 25% number increased from 12.9% to 13.9%.

Piglet survivability %

Average piglet survivability which would include pre-wean mortality and stillbirth pigs is little changed comparing first quarters over the last three years with 2022 at 79.0%, 2023 at 78.5% and 2024 at 79.1%. The range from bottom 25th percentile to top 25th percentile is 75.2% to 83.1% for quarter 1 of 2024. This equates to the top farms weaning eight more pigs of every 100 born.

Sow mortality %

The increase in sow mortality the industry has experienced over the last 10 years has been well documented. The MetaFarms database average sow mortality figures show a .5% decrease in quarter one of 2024 to 16.2% from the 2023 level of 16.7%, but only slightly improved from the 2022 level of 16.3%. While the average moved slightly lower the individual quartiles moved slightly higher with a range of 11.5% in the top 25% to 19.6% in the bottom 25% of farms. Year on year the top 25% moved from 11.0% to 11.5% while the bottom 25% moved from 19.3% to 19.6%.

A question for the pork industry moving forward into 2024 will be if the recent acceleration of improvement in the pigs weaned per litter number that the USDA reports has captured will continue or level off as some level of profitability returns to the industry and sow liquidation slows or reverses. Questions such as have there been some depopulations to improve health status improving productivity? Did quality and quantity of staffing improve with increased utilization of TN visa workers leading to improved performance? 

The average increase in the year-on-year pigs weaned/litter in the MetaFarms database was smaller than USDA reports and litters/sow year has changed little the last three years. The improvement was also concentrated in the bottom 50th percentile of performance. This might point to a more moderate rate of improvement moving forward. Undoubtedly genetic improvement will continue to accelerate with increased use of genomic data and breeding analysis, but much of the focus has shifted from traditional production parameters to a focus on reducing mortality and improving resilience of the females. As pork producers have proven over the years, they are a group with a remarkable record of continuous improvement.

MetaFarms Analytic Insights were used to provide the context and trends for this article. If you would like to discuss how to do benchmarking on your farm, or if you have suggestions on production areas to be included in future articles, please e-mail or call us. We enjoy being a part of the National Hog Farmer Weekly Preview team. Previous Production Preview columns can be found at National Hog Farmer.

If you have questions or comments about these columns, or if you have a specific performance measurement that you would like us to write about, please contact: Nicole Boettger at [email protected].

Subscribe to Our Newsletters
National Hog Farmer is the source for hog production, management and market news

You May Also Like