Swine Production Data
Data has driven the swine production business for several decades. We have learned that if we collect data and measure results we can affect change for the positive. The impacts can be seen in improvement in performance across every aspect of the farm. We have many tools to track breed-to-wean production, grow-finish efficiency, carcass merit and inputs used. Few industries collect and use more data than the pig business. In part, I expect that it is because we have so many repetitions to collect data.
We keep records on each breeding animal, each closeout group of pigs produced, each genetic line of animals, and more. How we will use that data in the future will ultimately determine the value of the time, effort and capital used to collect it.
Current Uses of the Data
Most often, we use data to improve performance. By reviewing the results, longer-term changes can be made in any area that needs improvement. We have proven that over and over, and attained continuous improvement in production in most areas in the last few decades.
Data is also used for budgeting. Farms have a much better idea of performance areas and use it for building a forecast of the future production and costs. The farms that use data to predict inputs and outputs are much better at understanding costs, cash needs, risk management tools and profitability.
A final use for data is in real-time management of the farm. Knowing where to focus attention on any given day to improve results takes real-time data, and more than just a good eye for problems.
Future Uses of the Data
Discussions around sustainability will come down to understanding inputs and outputs, and data will serve a major role. Sustainability, in part, is in how well resources (inputs) are utilized in producing food, and the level of outputs and their impact on the environment. Developing the metrics around that to measure is a focal point of the sustainability question. Whether that input is feed, water, antibiotics or labor, efficient production analyzes all of these; even if today we only look at the cost. Other than the pigs themselves, the nutrients we apply to produce crops are another major output. Most already maintain and monitor a comprehensive manure management plan. In the future, we’ll be taking that to the next level of managing soil fertility and soil health.
I cannot leave the subject without a discussion on benchmarking. Collecting data and acting on it is a great exercise in improvement. Knowing where to intervene is not always easy. Benchmarking your data to industry norms or peers can help determine where the time is best spent on making improvement. There are some excellent resources for benchmarking data from places like MetaFarms. At Compeer Financial, we continue to advocate for searching out that comparative data in the industry. Developing sustainability metrics and using benchmarking tools around those metrics will be a next big step for our industry to communicate to the consumer our continuous improvement.