August10 , 2022

5 Pork Industry Opportunities: Focus on Production Efficiency



5 Pork Industry Opportunities: Focus on Production Efficiency

The pork industry has arguably made as much progress as any livestock species when it comes to producing more with less. But as improvement continues, can pork producers do it in a way that allows for improvement across all production metrics, not just a few?


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Production metrics improvement was identified as one of the “Top Five Opportunities for the Global Pork industry” during a recent Farm Country Update webinar. We’re highlighting each of those challenges shared by experts during this webinar that they believe could become an opportunity for the pork industry in this Farm Journal’s PORK series.

Productivity Pressure

Pigs-per-sow-per year (PSY), growth and feed conversion are just a few of the metrics that continue to improve in the swine industry. Caleb Shull, director of research and innovation for The Maschhoffs, said he believes there is a big opportunity for the industry to take a holistic look and focus on the value that’s given up across the supply chain.

“A lot of that value is given up through mortality, whether it be in sows, piglets or growing pigs. But there’s also opportunity just in the misses we have across the supply chain from a management standpoint,” Shull said.

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Moving forward, Shull expects the industry will continue to see pressure on throughput and productivity of sows and weaned gain of pigs in wean-to-market.

“We’ve got to do it in a sustainable way that ends up with less dead pigs across our supply chain because it’s a responsibility of all of us to drive efficiency and to promote animal care and an environment our animals will thrive in. I think needs more attention,” Shull said. “I think there needs to be a focus on trying to minimize the losses across our supply chain we inevitably see as a result of some of the rapid growth in our production metrics we’ve seen in the last five to 10 years.”

Technology and Labor

Labor challenges make the pursuit of these goals even more complicated.

“Do we always provide the pig the right environment to thrive?” Shull said. “I’d say there’s major gaps across the industry, given how the industries have been constructed. How can we utilize technology to gain insight into what’s going on in the barns real-time to drive the people we do have to those challenges so they can react proactively to provide the best care to our animals?”

Jimmy Tosh, owner of Tosh Pork, said he’s anxious to see what new technology could come along to help farmers manage barns and pigs better. He said technology is one way to help his employees discover a problem before it becomes a problem so they can “get in there and deal with it.”

There’s no question that many of the issues producers face to improve production metrics require labor to make sure it gets done right, said Kent Bang, director of swine lending for Compeer Financial.

Capturing More Genetic Potential

“We see farms out there that can produce 35 pigs weaned per sow per year, we see close-outs that would gain well over two pounds a day, and we see conversions that are extremely good with mortalities of less than 5%,” Bang said. “Now we know that’s the genetic potential. We know it’s out there.”


Still, the industry is only capturing a fairly small percentage of the potential of genetics these days, Shull said.

“If you actually put a pig in the ideal environment, it’s amazing what they can do from a growth and feed conversion standpoint,” Shull said.

Tosh agreed there is a wide variation of production in the industry. For example, he said, MetaFarms numbers show a range anywhere from 18 to 35 PSY, with an average around 26.

“There’s still a tremendous area of improvement that could occur in this industry,” Tosh said.

One of those concerns, prolapse, requires the industry to do a better job from a genetic standpoint of testing animals in the environments they’re going to be raised in, Shull explained.

“I think there’s tremendous opportunities to clean up some of the hidden issues that we’ve got, whether it be prolapse, sow mortality in general or pig mortality across the supply chain,” Shull said. “There’s an opportunity to really focus on that from a genetic standpoint. I think you’ll see a push for that in the future

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