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Growth monitoring Part 2

By Dr Peter Evans, veterinary consultant
Ideally, weights should be taken when pigs’ stomachs are empty to avoid errors. For example, pig’s stomach holds 2 kg, thus if was weighed on an empty stomach at beginning of week and then on a full stomach a 2 kg excess is included or vice versa; in the late grower phase were pigs are growing at 6kg per week an error of 33 % is possible. Daily averages when computed weekly thus can “jump up and down”, thus using a rolling average is much better. Furthermore, plan to weigh pigs at the same hour every weighing session to reduce errors.Computer software programs have made analysis quick and easy. Unfortunately quite often over elaboration of data collection/ program / analyses makes the process unsustainable. Thus growth monitoring program should be designed with the goal in mind rather than the endless possibilities afforded by the use of modern programs and computers.
Using the motto “K I S S” is essential: – Keep  It   Simple   Stupid.
Spreadsheet programs have the advantage that one can design them to suit the farm situation. They can be changed easily to meet changes in goals etc.
Possible disadvantages are that a person conversant with the software is required to set these up.
e.g. Pig Champ, Easicare, Farm Automatiseering.
As far as the growth monitoring and reporting some programs are better than others. The disadvantage is that they can’t be adapted to report in a manner that suits individuals but make up for this in ease of operation and that data is easily transferred from one stage of production to the next.
e.g. Growthmaster and pig modelling programs.
Most of the specialised growth monitoring and modelling programs are based on feed intakes. Frank Aherne on his visit to South Africa always emphasised “Intakes drive growth”.
A. Average intake
The correlation between feed intake and growth rate is very high. Interesting to note that correlation between feed intake and water intake is also high which means that we can use water consumption as an indirect measure of feed intake. This practice is common in broiler industry. Water measurements using water meters, is relatively simple and cheap.
Commercial pigs housed in groups fed on an ad lib basis consume less feed than individually housed pigs of the same genotype. The difference is as a result of social interactions and competition at the feed trough. It stands to reason therefore that monitoring feed intake vs. group sizes for all types of houses and pens on the farm would allow optimisation of voluntary feed intake and growth.
In an Australian trial it was concluded that commercial grouped pigs of same genotype as individually housed pigs; deposited 65-80 % less “lean”. This was as a direct result of lower voluntary feed intake and nutrients. Unfortunately, as feed intake and growth decrease, there is often an increase in carcass fat. This could be alleviated by manipulating dietary energy and improving genotypes.
It is also noted that once constraints on feed intake are removed, e.g. health improvements, reduce stocking density, more feed-trough space etc, animals may become fat if left on the same rations. Sudden changes in intake may also indicate changes in palatability of feeds. For example new raw materials or new feed additives.
The above illustrates the dynamics and interactions of health, feed quality, feed composition and genotype on growth and carcass composition. Continual tracking of growth performance is essential for sustained optimum production.
B. Live ADG

1. Growth better than or equal to target

No action necessary.
2. All pigs poorer than target
Is the target realistic, based on genotype and feed intakes. If not then analyse the following:-
a)         Diet for its nutrient levels
b)         Quality of raw materials
c)         Diet too finely/coarsely ground
d)         Quality of the environment (ventilation & Temperatures)
e)         Health status. Are there any sub-clinical /chronic diseases present (hygiene)
f)          Quality of management and stock quality
g)         Housing /social structure
3. Some pigs poor some on target
Same as discussed previously and the following:-
a)         Inadequate feeder space. The pigs at the top of the pecking order are doing well; the pigs at the lower end are not.
b)         Adequacy of floor space and water. Pecking order plays role. More pronounced as pigs get bigger
Will enable cost benefit calculations. Furthermore is an indication of feed wastage. A pig that is of good genetic stock and with an adequate ADG is unlikely to have a poor FCR; especially if housing and environment are good.
The problems causing FCR deviations are very similarly to problems discussed above for ADG.
D. Fat
It is useful to track back fat over a long period to assess the trend. If back fats are tending to raise the following factors may be playing a role:-
Genetically leaner pigs respond better to higher levels of protein. That is feeding higher levels of protein to leaner pigs will positively lean ADG.
E. Financial
1. ADG
A pig weaned at 7,5 kg and market at 100kg at 147 days of age will have an ADG of 775 g per day.
A 10% under achievement translates to 21 week old pig weighing about 91 kg. A potential loss in carcass mass sold of 200 kg per sow (@22,5 sold/s/y) or in financial value a reduced turnover of R 1,900 /sow. (R9.50/kg).
The added negative is that in the above scenario a reduction of 200 kg per sow translates to an increase in overhead cost /kg live mass of 8.9%, and 11,3% if calculated on a carcass mass basis. The dressing % of pigs increases with live mass. In this illustration a 91kg was assumed to dress at 74% and a 100kg pig at 76%.
The increase in dressing % as pigs get heavier is often overlooked in determining optimisation of profits, and illustrates the need to get pigs as heavy as possible.

2. FCR

Grower pigs consume 70 % of total feed on a farm. Thus they account for 52,5 % of total costs (assuming feed accounts for 75 % of total costs). For this reason alone it is obvious that a 10 % improvement in grower FCR, will produce a 5 % reduction in costs.
Typical target for Grower FCR (4 weeks of age to 100kg) would be 2,65. Indicating 245 kg of feed consumed per pig: –
245 kg @ R1.50 /kg = R 367.50 of feed per pig
10% worse at 2,95 FCR = R408.35 I.e. reduced margin of R 40.85 per grower sold.
In the above example a reduced profit of R920 per sow selling 22,5 pigs per year/sow.
3. Grading
The effect of grading on profit is best illustrated using the table below:- All parameters are kept the same expect for grading.
The poor grading costs the producer R 0.20 per kg in reduced profit and in this case would need to get at least R10 for “R”s to make the same profit.
There is no easy way of monitoring production and no one parameter is sufficient. Just as any factory has a system of checks and balances so should the pork production enterprise.
The performance of the grower herd has a huge financial influence on a farm’s profitability. It therefore stands to reason that as much attention should be paid to tracking performance tendencies as is paid to reproductive performance. The pig farmer who wishes to stay in business when profitability is under threat should be more aggressive in his approach to optimising grower herd production / performance.
It would be a good idea for readers to evaluate their performance based on the above examples and answering a few questions:
Is your ADG as good as it should be, if not what is it costing you and how can you improve it.
What is your FCR on weaners, growers and herd.
What about grading, do you convert every load into a percentage of each grade and compare to budget.
Most of the Pig Veterinary Consultants would be only too happy to assist. SAPPO will have contact details of consultants active in your area.

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