By, Russell Gilliam
Let’s face it: raising profitable pigs is hard work. Optimizing your bottom line while staying competitive is a challenge on its own, but add fluctuating feed costs, new regulations and an unpredictable market to the mix and the task can feel daunting. In addition, supply chain disruptions have further exacerbated the need for producers to minimize losses, with many hoping to just break-even to keep their farms afloat.
Whether we are in challenging or prosperous times, lowering the cost of production is important because every pig producer is looking for ways to maintain their farm’s profitability and ensure their farms’ future for years to come.
Three strategies for reducing your pig cost of production
Feed costs represent the biggest input for producers, often accounting for up to 70% of production costs. It is imperative for pig producers to adapt their feed strategy to maximize feed efficiency. Here are three ways to reduce production costs without impacting your herd’s performance.
1. Reducing feed costs for pigs
The pressure to reduce feed costs and the continuous effort to gain a better understanding of available feed ingredients are the biggest challenges the livestock industry currently faces. Around 25% of the available nutrients in feed ingredients cannot be fully utilized by the animal due to anti-nutritional factors in feed. Keeping that in mind, producers around the world are making a concerted effort to lower the cost of production and maximize feed efficiency based on nutritional and economic factors (which often vary) while maintaining animal welfare and using sustainable approaches to meet demands.
Pig producers look to increase feed digestibility as a means of managing the short-term risks associated with reduced market prices. Increasing feed digestibility helps:
- Make more nutrients available for the pig to absorb.
- Improve performance, allowing producers to send animals to market faster.
- Lower feed costs.
Nutritional feed enzyme technologies, such as Allzyme® SSF, have been used for different applications that range from soy sauce to the enzymatic digestion of feedstuffs. Allzyme SSF’s unique enzyme complex promotes cost-efficiency by maximizing the diet’s potential at every stage of growth. Developed through solid state fermentation (SSF), Allzyme SSF’s multi-enzymatic solution works in synergy with the complete swine diet, optimizing nutrients — including amino acids, energy, calcium and phosphorus — while enhancing the use of raw materials (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Solid state fermentation (SSF) process
As a result, a complex enzyme matrix is produced. This matrix gives nutritionists a degree of flexibility in formulating diets and, in turn, the release of more nutrients for the pig, which leads to cost savings for the producer. Figure 2 shows an example of a finishing diet that utilized Alltech’s Allzyme SSF technology to improve digestibility and lower the cost per ton of feed. This example is representative of a typical diet in the eastern corn belt of the United States.
Figure 2: Feed cost savings with Allzyme® SSF
2. Improving pig efficiency, starting with the sow
In recent years, genetics have played a major role in improving sow efficiency by increasing the number of pigs produced per sow per year. As litter size increases, piglet birth weight decreases and litter variability increases. Low birth weight is a major predisposing factor for pre-weaning mortality (Figure 3), and lower weaning weights often result in slower growth and fatter carcasses.
Figure 3: Effects of piglet birth weight on preweaning mortality
(Feldpausch, et al., 2019)
Increasing birth weight can:
- Improve piglet variability.
- Help reduce the number of pigs that require special attention.
- Decrease pre-weaning mortality rates.
- Improve piglet weaning weight.
Everything you want the piglet to receive comes through the sow until weaning, so it is important to make sure that the sow’s nutrition program is fully implemented as planned and that she can transfer vital trace elements, such as those found in Bioplex® and Sel-Plex® trace minerals, to the piglet.
There are technologies on the market today that are being utilized differently now than they have been at any time in the past to improve sow reproductive performance. Alltech’s Mineral Management program has been shown to:
- Increase the number of piglets born alive.
- Increase the birthweight of smaller pigs in the litter by changing the mineral source that was fed to the sow from inorganic to organic trace minerals (Kalaw et al., 2009).
- Reduce variation within the litter at weaning and slaughter (Ma et al., 2020).
Figure 4: Litter birthweights from sows fed inorganic or organic trace mineral sources
(Bertechini et al., 2012)
Reducing weaning variation allows pig producers to market pigs in a much tighter window and to reduce variation heading into slaughter. Reducing variation at slaughter also has the potential to reduce sort losses at the processing facility and could lead to increased revenue per pig (Cheng, Claudy, Que and Schinckel, 2019).
In addition, Bioplex minerals have demonstrated that there is less degradation of vitamins as well as enzymes. A reduction in enzyme effectiveness or vitamin activity can lead to an increase in cost or a less favorable production response. Research has shown there are several enzymes that are heavily reduced in the presence of inorganic minerals and that are less damaged when exposed to their organic counterparts in the form of Bioplex (Santos, Connolly and Murphy, 2014).
3. Improving water consumption
Is the water your pigs drink impacting their performance and productivity, thereby adding to your production costs? A pig’s water consumption is just as important as their feed intake because pigs that don’t drink enough water won’t consume enough feed. Pigs tend to drink around 10% of their body weight per day, or roughly two times the amount of feed they eat.
Keeping the pH in a lower range for a longer period of time reduces the conditions that allow harmful bacteria to grow and flourish. Adding acidifiers, such as Acid-Pak 4-Way®, to drinking water is an effective approach to acidification, especially when intake is low or variable, because it:
- Reduces water pH and keeps it in a more favorable range (<5 pH).
- Sweetens the taste of water, helping young pigs more inclined to readily drink water.
- Improves water intake, which, in turn, improves the pig’s ability to digest feed.
- Leads to better enzymatic activity.
Acid-Pak 4-Way has typically been used following weaning or during stressful times in the pig’s life.
The cost of pig production
While numerous variables can affect production costs, understanding the factors that affect feed quality and implementing a quality-assurance program will help ensure that the best possible nutrition is delivered to your pigs and will help pig producers save more money in the long run. Use our pig profit calculator at Alltech.com/every-cent-matters to see how much you can save with Alltech nutritional technologies.
Bertechini, A. G., Fassani, E. J., Brito, J. Á. G. D., & Barrios, P. R. (2012). Effects of dietary mineral Bioplex in pregnant and lactating sow diets on piglet performance and physiological characteristics. Revista Brasileira De Zootecnia, 41(3), 624–629. doi: 10.1590/s1516-35982012000300022
Cheng, J., Claudy, J., Que, Y., & Schinckel, A. P. (2019). PSII-21 Evaluation of the impact of the magnitude of errors in the sorting of pigs and market price for market on the optimal market weight. Journal of Animal Science, 97(Supplement_2), 231–232. doi: 10.1093/jas/skz122.407
Feldpausch, J. A., Jourquin, J., Bergstrom, J. R., Bargen, J. L., Bokenkroger, C. D., Davis, D. L., … Ritter, M. J. (2019). Birth weight threshold for identifying piglets at risk for preweaning mortality. Translational Animal Science, 3(2), 633–640. doi: 10.1093/tas/txz076
Johnson, R. J., & Campbell, R. G. (1991). Rhone-Poulenc Animal Nutrition and Bunge Meat Industries, Australia. In: Manipulating Pig Production III. Proceedings of the Third Biennial Conference of the Australasian Pig Science Association (pp. 138–138).
Kalaw, P.R., Yatco, J.T., Yatco, G.B., et al., The incidence of small piglets at birth and at weaning can be reduced by Bioplex Sow Pak (poster). Alltech’s 25th Symposium.
Ma, L., He, J., Lu, X., Qiu, J., Hou, C., Liu, B., … Yu, D. (2020). Effects of low-dose organic trace minerals on performance, mineral status, and fecal mineral excretion of sows. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences, 33(1), 132–138. doi: 10.5713/ajas.18.0861
Santos, T., Connolly, C., & Murphy, R. (2014). Trace Element Inhibition of Phytase Activity. Biological Trace Element Research, 163(1-2), 255–265. doi: 10.1007/s12011-014-0161-y