NOVEMBER 2018 www.irishfarmersmonthly.com Pig Focus Reducing pig feed production costs Figures delivered by Louise Clarke of Teagasc at a Pig Production Costs seminar recently show the absolute necessity for pig producers to maximise efficiency in their feed regimes wherever they can, at a time when they are losing significant sums of money each week. but this is all operated on scale and over a 600 sow herd the annual savings are significant. Reducing feed wastage Looking at the potential for savings from minimising feed wastage Louise Clarke had some more interesting and potentially cost saving data to deliver. At the finishing stage of the pig cycle she estimated that feed costs account for 60 per cent of the total feed cost of production over the life cycle. Her advice on reducing wastage included repairing/replacing broken feeders which can account for total feed losses of up to 12 tonnes per feeder per year. In addition she advised the regular adjust of feeders to the correct operational efficiency. Again, significant savings were identified – small on a per unit basis but large over a scaled pig production operation. For instance, a 4 per cent reduction in feed wastage at the finishing stage is worth €2.70 per pig. That equates to €44,000 for a six hundred sow herd. Even with the recent rise in pig prices of 4c/kg many in the sector are still in a loss making situation. The predicament of pig producers has been made worse by the rising cost of feed since April, amounting to a total feed cost increase of ten percent and more increases in feed ingredients likely over the coming months. It is estimated that feed costs are now running on average at 116c/kg dwt. Allied to low pig prices that have hovered around 138c/kg dwt until recent weeks, those figures have plunged margins on pig farms to a historic low margin of 22c/kg dwt. The minimum required margin feed is estimated by Teagasc to be 50c/kg dwt. That effectively translates into a loss per pig sold of €24. Should that feed cost to pig price ratio pertain over a twelve month period, producers would be looking at a loss to the sector of €89 million. Avoid overstocking As much as producers want to maximise throughput and output overstocking can have negative impacts on efficiency, as Louise Clarke's paper outlined. Overstocking is, she emphasised, an invisible cost. A three per cent reduction in space can equate to a one percent reduction in feed intake – a critical reduction in terms of feed efficiency. Balancing slaughter weight with feed efficiency Other areas where potential cost savings and increased efficiencies can be applied include increasing slaughter weights and matching gilt numbers to the pig unit's needs. A gilt will consume about 210 kgs of feed so each excess/culled gilt carries an additional feed cost of €60 with the target gilt pool set at 12 per cent of the herd size. With regard to the potential to deliver extra margin from increased slaughter weights the figures per pig are, again, slim but the total herd figures are more substantial, though not likely to be profit game-changers. Moving liveweight from 110kgs to 115 kgs can negatively impact on Feed Conversion Efficiency but could improve the dead weight from 84.15kg to 87.98 kgs and deliver an extra 0.84c/kg dwt. That's worth an estimated €13,600 over a 600 sow herd. Gleaning efficiencies where possible Because there is little the producers or Teagasc can do to influence pig prices or raw feed purchase costs then only option is to increase efficiencies where possible and reduce any wastage in the system. With feed costs accounting for 70 per cent of the total production cost over the lifetime of the pig, reducing feed costs and/ or increasing feed efficiencies are obvious targets for improving margins be they at either side of the breakeven point. To that end, in her paper, the Teagasc Pig Specialist noted that a 0.1 per cent improvement in Finisher Feed Efficiency is worth €2.30 per pig produced or 2.7c/kg dwt. That doesn't sound like a lot of savings, 29