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Benchmarking: How often have you asked yourself the following questions but have not been able to answer them?

How much does it cost me to feed my pigs? Is my feed bill too high?

How much money am I making per pig?

Is my veterinary bill too high?

Am I spending too much on electricity?

How much feed are my pigs eating?

I am asked these questions quite often during farm visits but I can’t answer them either for your unit unless you keep records. I know average figures, for example, I know average feed costs, the average healthcare cost, the average amount of feed fed per pig, but every business is different. The performance of your unit may be better or worse than the average. Average figures should only be used as a guide and for comparing the performance of your business with other similar businesses.

The simplest way for you to find out exactly how your business is performing is to benchmark. Benchmarking provides you with information about your business and allows you to answer all the questions above and many more. The information needed for benchmarking includes pig sales feed purchases/feed mixed and costs associated with the pig enterprise. It is important to stress that all information received is kept confidential.

Farrowing house practices

Take a look at the photograph below taken on a County Tyrone unit and see how many practical management practices you can spot.

The five practices that I spotted are:

Two heat pads – one on either side of the pen. This means it doesn’t matter what way the sow lies the pigs are always close to a pad.

Carpet on heat pad – putting a piece of carpet on the heat pad provides better grip for splay-legged piglets. A heavy object is used to keep the carpet in place.

Shredded paper – using paper as bedding is equivalent to an increase in temperature of eight degrees. It is also excellent for drying off piglets after birth.

Split suckling – this involves removing the bigger pigs from the sow two to three times per day for a couple of days after farrowing and setting them into a split suckling ring or plastic drum/box. This reduces competition and allows the smaller, less viable pigs in the litter better access to the teats. Setting the split suckling ring on the heat pad ensures the pigs removed from the sow are kept warm.

Use of the bars on the crate as a ‘recording card’. Information such as number of functional teats, quality of udder on a scale of one to five, numbers fostered on and off and number of pigs born each time the sow is checked is noted. Writing this information on the bars with chalk means all those working in the farrowing house can see what is happening at a glance.

Reminder to complete Pig Inventory card

At the end of May you received a Pig Inventory card for completion. This is the second year this card has been posted out and it replaces the June pig census. The inventory requires you to record the number of dry sows, lactating sows, other sows, boars, suckling pigs, weaners/growers and finishers on your unit on 2 June 2014. If you have not already completed the card, please do so and return it to DARD as soon as possible in the pre-paid envelope.

As you are aware, in addition to recording movements on and off the unit, sow deaths, births and replacement tag numbers in your Holding Register you also have to record the total number of pigs on your unit once per year. You can record the number of pigs on 2 June 2014 or you can choose another date.

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