Time for a feed budget tune-up?

March 1, 2016

3 Min Read
Time for a feed budget tune-up?

Anyone who has ever been up to their elbows in an engine knows that it takes many parts to make it work and each of those parts must be operating at full capacity to get the best performance. However, without regular maintenance, that engine that’s purring today may be sputtering tomorrow.

Management of your farm’s nutrition program is much the same. There are a lot of working parts involved and with regular maintenance, it can perform like a champ. For the Hubbard Feeds team, that tune-up involves reviewing feed budgets, incorporating new tools and technologies, and providing resources to help gain or maintain optimal performance of the feed management program.

Past Performance

“To make the most of your feed budget and resources, it’s important to first take a look at past performance,” says Stewart Galloway, Ph.D., Senior Swine Nutritionist for Hubbard Feeds.

“We will sit down with customers, compare their performance and production goals and see where there may be improvements and opportunities for them to improve their profitability,” he says. “This is also the time to delete outdated diets and budgets, and tighten up the relevant information to help the process run more smoothly going forward.” Galloway states that a small correction on feed budget errors can result in a savings of $.25-.50 per pig while a larger correction, especially for adjusting overfeeding of early phase diets, can mean a $1/pig savings.

Steve Toft, Swine Specialist with Hubbard Feeds recalls reviewing budgets for a customer that had a large gilt developer unit with multiple age females. They discovered the phases being fed were not what had originally been recommended. The customer adjusted the ration to better fit the age and weight range of the gilts. Breeding weight increased and since then reproductive performance and gilt retention has improved.

The starter phase is one area that should have consistent reviews since weaning weights can vary through time. Toft works with one customer that reviewed their starter feed program and realized weaning weights had decreased due to higher throughput on the farm. A prestarter was added to the feeding program. Afterwards less fallouts were observed and overall nursery performance improved.

While comparing estimated feed budgets to actual feed usage is beneficial, it’s also looking in the rearview mirror, primarily because it’s done after the pigs went to market and the group is closed out. While the information is helpful, the ability to change the situation is limited.  The goal should be to manage feed budgets in a real time scenario. This means establishing a system that allows both the feed mill manager and the pig care worker to see how much feed for each phase of the budget is delivered and to make adjustments if necessary. Even a simple task like consistently rounding up or down can have significant impact after a few phases.

Tools and Technology

Hubbard has developed three online dashboards and a smartphone app that help customers stay on top of key elements of their nutritional program. “Our online dashboards have become significant tools for our customers who use them,” Galloway says. “They take some of the emotion out, so customers can make decisions based on objective, accurate information rather than having to go on gut feelings.” During regular monthly meetings, use of the Hubbard DDGS dashboard helped one customer find opportunities to improve costs. As ingredient prices changed, three formulation changes occurred over the course of 12 months which saved the producer over $.50 per pig for that year.

While tuning up your feed management program may seem like a daunting task, the process is anything but cumbersome. “It takes a little information gathering at the front end, but once we have the data we need, we can set benchmarks and make adjustments and updates along the way,” Galloway says. These regular tune-ups provide another opportunity for communication and review of more than just the nutrition program. Some customers include their veterinarians, lenders and other partners in the mix so everyone has the information they need to assist in making these important decisions.

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