Survivor Skills

October 21, 2019


Anyone that is currently involved in the pork industry knows that in today’s market, margins are tight. Mismanagement or the lack of well-maintained facilities could mean the game’s over sooner than later. Recently, I was asked to list what differences I saw in the people who will most likely be long-term players in this industry versus those that are struggling to survive.  This list of survivor skills is what I came up with:

1. Marketing Skills and Plans – Margins are tight today in the pork industry.  Setting realistic income goals and then following through on achieving those goals is important step towards long-term survival.  Working with a marketing company that helps producers utilize all of the tools to minimize risk and capture the profit that meets your goals is essential for producers.

2. Doing Closeouts – Records are a road map to survival.  Knowing what your operation’s weakness are and where you are not competitive is key to understanding what it will take to survive.   Understanding the value of each category of your herd’s performance is critical.  Don’t spend time and money on aspects that don’t add toward profits. 

3. Keep Facilities Well Maintained and Clean – Too many times I have seen the hog facilities be the last on the list for new equipment and maintaince.  While in many cases, it’s those very facilities that are supporting other aspects of the farming operation.  Prospective custom feeders need to understand that pig owners are going to look at the cleanliness of the facilities and maintaince of the equipment very closely.  They will assume that you will take care of their pigs like you take care of your site.

4. Have the Observation Skills to Understand What the Pigs are Telling You – Pigs will let you know when they are physically or socially uncomfortable, getting sick, are not competing within their group, and need management attention.  Close daily observation and understanding what steps to take separate out the best producers.

5. Treat Pigs Promptly – Watching daily water meter readings to foresee drops in group water use can allow a producer to head off major illnesses and reduce treatment length and expense.  Prompt antibiotic injections for a sick pig are important. That allows a pig’s immune system a chance to override any bacterial infection.  Waiting to see if a pig is going to get better tomorrow is a poor choice.  They rarely do.

6. Replace Obsolete Equipment – There are many barns with feeders that are 15-20 years old.  The advances in feeder technology have been significant.  A new 50 head feeder that improves feed efficiency by .2 pounds of feed/pound of gain, will save you  $200/turn in a finishing barn, and pay for itself in less than a year.  That can add $25-30,000 dollars /year to a 2,500 head finisher’s bottom line.

7. Understand Controllers and Ventilation – Air quality is a key to a pig’s comfort, intake, and health.  Controllers today offer significant improvements for a producer’s ability to develop and monitor a fresh, comfortable environment.  If your controller has some age to it, look into what newer systems have to offer.  Many producers can pay for a new controller in saved utility costs the first year.

A basic understanding of how air moves, and its impact on the pig will help a producer manage the controller in his facility.  Knowing target temperatures can improve pig weights out the door.  Many producers keep barns too warm during the finishing period and thus, reduce intakes because the pig is under heat stress.  
 
8. Manage Hospital Pens - Hospital pens allow a producer to segregate a pig with health problems from the general population.  That not only benefits that pig, but keeps the general population healthier.  Once that pig is in the hospital pen, it should be treated daily until it either recovers and is returned to the general population or is euthanized if the pig continues to not respond to treatment and continues to fail. 

9. Walk Each Pen Daily – You cannot replace what walking in each pen, looking at every pig, checking the feeder and waterer, and simply observing their behavior does for staying in front of problems.  You cannot do this from the alleyway.  Daily walks can reduce the daily stress on the pigs and make them easier to load. 

10. Communicate with Advisors/Suppliers – No matter if it is your vet, nutritionist, or feed mill, other people need to know what is going on in your operation.  As a Swine Consultant, when I  design a set of rations and budgets for a producer, knowing his daily feed intakes from his closeouts makes the rations more efficient and profitable.  Keeping your feed mill apprised of current performance and weights allows them to ensure that faster or slower gains don’t cause the budgets to be mis-fed.  Informing your vet of unusual health or behavior allows him to design a health program that is best for the pigs.  Working with these people and others is simply money in your pocket.

11. Biosecurity – Last, but absolutely not least, biosecurity needs to be on every producer’s mind every day.  Shortcuts and compromises usually end up being the wrong choice.  It is just not the current worry of ASF, but more likely one of the common swine pathogens that will come around and cost you money. 
 
 
Overall, different operations will all have different challenges. But this list is the key group of survival skills that stands out because they are all factors that can be controlled. With the opportunities and dangers on the horizon for the pork industry, focusing on what the average pork producer can control will help him sleep at night, and give him the best chance to be a long-term player in this industry. To learn more, talk to your local CVA Feed Specialist.

by Steve Jones
Posted: 10/21/2019 2:58:12 PM by Kristin Petersen | with 0 comments


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