Sponsored By

What is the most important number in growing pigs?

What you do have more control over is how the pigs perform, so are you doing everything you can to ensure top performance? What does top performance look like?

Ron Ketchem, Mark Rixand 1 more

May 2, 2018

5 Min Read
What is the most important number in growing pigs?

There are some things in the industry you have little control over, and the price you sell your pigs to market is one of them. The trade agreements and tariffs are playing a big role in that right now in the United States. What you do have more control over is how the pigs perform, so are you doing everything you can to ensure top performance? What does top performance look like?

Table 1 looks at over 13,000 nursery closeouts with over 16 million pigs. In the Swine Management Services system, the closeouts are broken out into 25% increments. The top 25% of the closeouts averaged 1.4% death loss and 1.45 adjusted feed conversion. The bottom 25% of closeouts averaged 4.9% death loss and 1.85 adjusted feed conversion. In the SMS model that translates to a loss of $7.46 per pig compared to the top 25% of the closeouts. The SMS database shows there is an average of $3.72 in opportunity for those 16 million pigs.


Table 2 looks at 15,754 finishing closeouts with over 17 million pigs. The top 25% of the closeouts in this database show a 2.7% death loss and a 2.63 adjusted feed conversion. The bottom 25% of closeouts have a 6.4% death loss with a 3.11 adjusted feed conversion. Here it translates into a loss of $26.44 per pig compared to the top 25% of closeouts. On average the finishing database shows $13.61 in opportunity on those 17 million pigs.


Table 3 is the wean-to-finish benchmarking numbers with the top 25% of those closeouts at 3.3% death loss and 2.58 adjusted feed conversion. While the bottom 25% of closeouts have 6.9% death loss and a 2.93 adjusted feed conversion, an average loss there of $22.85 per pig. Overall the wean-to-finish database shows $11.61 in opportunity dollars per pig.


Table 3 also shows that the average daily gain at 1.60 for the 2.8 million pigs. Modeling the 2 million individual carcasses we have in our carcass database shows that the first cut/load goes out at a 1.75 average daily gain, the second cut/load goes out at a 1.62 ADG and the last cut/load goes out at 1.45 ADG. Even within the same closeout, there is a large variation in performance. What is causing the last pigs out to grow 19% slower? It is certainly several things, but what can you do to help minimize it?

• Colostrum intake at birth: making sure that every pig gets adequate colostrum is more important than ever as litter size continues to increase. Colostrum intake ensures not just the ability for the pig to live but also the long-term performance of the pig.

• Weaning the right pigs: just because a pig is big enough to wean doesn’t mean that they are old enough to perform well on dry feed. On the other end of the spectrum allowing pigs to enter the barn that will never be full value pigs hurts the entire barn.

• Starting them right after weaning: weaning is the most stressful event in a pig’s life so doing everything possible to minimize that is key to long-term performance. Often people are so focused on getting feed into that pig that they forget about the importance of water to the pig. Making sure pigs are hydrated will also drive intake. It isn’t necessary to spend time sorting pigs by size when placing either, pull the bottom 10% and leave the rest where they are. Research from O’Quinn et al in 2001 shows that unsorted pigs have a better average daily gain, feed intake and finished at 3.9 pounds heavier than pens sorted by size. These pigs are used to being called to the dinner table every two hours so feeding newly placed pigs four to five times a day for the first seven to 10 days get pigs started better than feeding them just twice a day.

• Be proactive in treating: Treat early to ensure the best chance of recovery and best use of medicine.

Are you doing everything you can to ensure that the pigs are performing to their potential and to ensure that you can minimize the variation of performance in groups and across groups?

If you will be attending the World Pork Expo we would love to have you stop by our tent located at SV1808 which is southeast of the Varied Industries Building and tell us what you would like to see in future columns.

SMS Production Index
Table 4 provides the 52-week rolling averages for 11 production numbers represented in the SMS Production Index. The numbers are separated by 90-100%, the 70-90%, the 50-70%, the 30-50% and the 0-30% groups. We also included the 13-week, 26-week and 12-quarter averages. These numbers represent what we feel are the key production numbers to look at to evaluate the farm’s performance.


If you have questions or comments about these columns, if you have a specific performance measurement that you would like us to write about or if your farm would like to be part of the SMS Benchmarking databases, contact Mark RixRon Ketchem or Valerie Duttlinger.

At SMS, our mission statement is to provide “Information solutions for the swine industry.” We feel with the creation of different SMS Benchmarking databases for all production areas we now have more detailed information to share with the swine industry. We enjoy being a part of the NHF Daily newsletter team.

Previous columns can be found at NationalHogFarmer.com.

About the Author(s)

Ron Ketchem

Swine Management Services

Mark Rix

Swine Management Services LLC

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

You May Also Like