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Production Performance – Is Bigger Better?

Occasionally, we are asked whether farm size affects production, so we decided to take a closer look.

Occasionally, we are asked whether farm size affects production, so we decided to take a closer look.

We divided the Swine Management Systems’ data set into four groups (see attached). The size breaks are:

• Chart 1: under 1,000 mated females (141 farms);
• Chart 2: 1,000 -1,999 mated females (130 farms);
• Chart 3: 2,000-2,999 mated females (94 farms), and
• Chart 4: over 3,000 mated females (32 farms). The farms selected had to be in full production for 3+ years and producing 22+ pigs weaned/mated female for the last three years. Of the 619 farms in the database, 397 met those criteria (64%). The size groups in Charts 1-4 are broken out by pigs weaned/mated female/year (PW/MF/Y) for the most recent 12 quarters.

There are some interesting trends in the data sets.
• Chart 1(under 1,000 mated females) shows very consistent production at 24+ pigs weaned, with very little improvement.
• Chart 2 (1,000-1,999 mated females) shows a trend of steady improvement, gaining almost one pig weaned/mated female.
• Chart 3 (2,000-2,999 mated females) has a trend line of very steady improvement, going from 23.51 to 24.88 PW/MF in the last quarter of the period.
• Chart 4 (over 3,000 mated females) has some quarterly variation, but still showed the most improvement at 1.80+ PW/MF over the 12 quarters. The data also shows that in the last two quarters, the larger units were producing more pigs/mated female than the smaller units.

As we look at the difference in production numbers, there are five areas that are key factors: genetics, facilities, health, nutrition and people.

In looking at the top-producing farms (27+ PW/MF), there are several different genetic companies represented. Facilities vary in age from 5 years to over 30 years old. Additionally, a very high percentage of the farms have had some heath challenges, especially porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), and there are multiple nutrition companies represented. That leaves people.

The effect of people on production levels is very hard to measure or quantify. We know that farms with a stable workforce with some experience are more consistent in performance vs. farms with a high workforce turnover.

It is not uncommon for employee turnover rate to be greater than 50%, annually. An interesting comparison is to count the number of W-2’s you print each year to determine your employee replacement rate, then compare it to your sow replacement rate. Farms spend a lot of time and money developing gilts and retaining them in the breeding herd. In similar fashion, you spend time and resources to develop your employees. Standard operating procedures and ongoing training/education programs for all the employees are vital for improving production performance on any farm.

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 are presented with each column. The KPI’s 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: or

Mark Rix and Ron Ketchem
Swine Management Services LLC

Click to view graphs.