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Dealing with Vanishing Pigs

All too often at Swine Management Services (SMS), we find this scenario occurring: the sow farm ships 1,000 weaned pigs and the producer accepts 960 pigs. The 40-pig difference in many systems becomes the vanishing pigs.

These rejected pigs should all be counted against the sow farm’s records. Further, these rejected pigs are entered in the sow farm’s records as dead pigs on a sow weaned that week and later culled. This ensures that the sow farm is held accountable for only shipping top-quality (number 1 pigs), and that the sow farm does not receive a bonus for shipping rejected pigs.

It is also important to hold the receiving producer accountable for rejected pigs which should be euthanized. We have seen a closeout with a negative death loss because the receiving producer only entered 960 pigs received and did not euthanize the rejected pigs.

The only way to hold the receiving producer accountable is by implementing defined counting and grading procedures in all contracts for delivering weaned pigs.

These procedures should include:

  • A time line for grading and reporting back to the sow farm;
  • Identification of who is responsible for counting and grading the pigs and procedures for handling variations in the number of pigs shipped vs. the number of pigs received;
  • Definitions for grading pig defects and how defective pigs are to be handled, kept at a reduced price or euthanized; and
  • A third-party arbitrator for counting and grading issues.
A rigid time line needs to be established for grading the pigs and getting the information back to the pig source. That time line should range from 24 to 72 hours after delivery.

It is important that each person handling the pigs be properly trained in moving the pigs safely and humanely. At each step in the transportation process, the pigs need to be counted and the shipper, trucker and receiver all should be required to sign the paperwork verifying the count.

Pig defects should be classified by whether the defects occurred on the source sow farm and/or they were caused during pig transportation. It is important to define each defect and determine if it is a rejected pig (no value), or a substandard pig with a value set as a percentage of the number 1 pigs.

At SMS, we track defects by the sow farm and by the individual producer receiving the pigs. We then compare all of the producers receiving pigs from the same sow farm. It is not uncommon to see a 2-4% variation in total rejected and substandard pigs from one producer to the next who receives pigs from the same sow farm.

At SMS, we use a calculation for determining the percentage of number 1 pigs shipped. Take the total dollars received for the pigs divided by the price per pig for number 1 pigs. For example: Producer 1 grades 3% substandard pigs and 1% rejected pigs, and Producer 2 grades 1% substandard pigs and 3% rejected pigs. On $40 weaned pigs and $30 substandard pigs, Producer 1 has 98.3% number 1 pigs shipped ($39.30 per pig shipped), and Producer 2 has 96.8% number 1 pigs shipped ($38.70 per pig shipped). Both producers graded 96% number 1 pigs, but the variation in substandard and rejected pigs of 2%, lowers the income to the sow farm by $0.60 on all pigs shipped. These calculations illustrate how pigs are graded affects both parties.

Every group or system has its own way to track and grade pigs. However, it is critical that this process is fair to the sow farm, the person buying the pigs and the employees at the sow farm who get a bonus.

Key Performance Indicators
Tables 1 and 2 (below) provide 52-week and 13-week rolling averages for key performance indicators (KPI) of breeding herd performance. These tables reflect the most current quarterly data available and will be presented with each column. The KPI’s in the tables can be used as general guidelines to measure the productivity of your herd compared to the top 10% and top 25% of farms, the average performance for all farms, and the bottom 25% of farms in the SMS database.

If you have questions or comments about these columns, or if you have a specific performance measurement that you would like to see benchmarked in our database, please address them to: [email protected] or [email protected].

Click to view graphs.

Mark Rix and Ron Ketchem
Swine Management Services LLC