Are new feeders too expensive?

Last week was a busy week for me. I started the week walking producer barns in central Iowa with a client. Feeder issues were a dominant topic at many of the sites. With corn flirting with $8/bu on the board last week (the July contract hit $7.99 on Friday), everyone is looking at all of the little things that impact feed conversion and feed cost of gain.

Producers continue to struggle with the feeder decision – do I keep the existing feeders or do I invest in replacement feeders? If I invest, what feeders to I go with? If I replace, do I have the correct number of feeder spaces already or do I need to buy a different size of feeder? Buying a different size of feeder means I need to invest in new gating at the feeder location also. It may also mean an investment in new drinkers. If new drinkers, what type and how many?

For many, it is easiest to keep using what was purchased and installed 5-10 years ago, rather than try and find the answers to the above questions. As many have already discovered, publicly available information to support the feeder and drinker decisions is limited. In the case of European research, their final weights don’t approach our 272 lb average sale weight so correct sizing of the feeder based on their data becomes somewhat of an extrapolation.

However, when you consider that in a 50 ft wide facility, there are often 65-70 pigs eating from a fenceline feeder. Total feed thru this feeder approaches 58 tons/year for grow-finish facilities. If your average diet cost is $220/ton, a 1% improvement in feed conversion is worth $127.60 per feeder per year.

Suddenly new feeders don’t seem so expensive.

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