The 4 ton sow

Last week’s grain stocks report shock wave is still rumbling through the swine industry. One of the first responses several production systems have made to the lowered feed grain price has been to make plans to increase sales weight as rapidly as possible in anticipation of a summer drop in weight.

With cheaper feed prices coming next year (we’re all counting on closer to normal crop yields in the US) many production systems are targeting a return to higher slaughter weights with several also targeting investments in new production flows. Several large sow units are being constructed in the US this summer with the first pigs anticipated to begin hitting the market in late summer of 2014.

At the same time as 3-5000 sow units are being permitted and constructed this summer and fall, many smaller units continue to evaluate their relative competitive position. In my opinion, smaller sow units that do the right things at the right time are competitive, but failure to be among the best at what you do really hurts.

In conversations with people involved in the decisions associated with new sow units, the expectation in every case is that the new unit will have a production level that is as good as or better than current units within the production system. Ten to fifteen years ago it was common to do financial projections for farrowing units based on 20 pigs weaned per mated female per year. Today, many new units are projecting 26-28 pigs in their first 2 years of production, with an expectation of even more pigs as the breeding herd matures and stabilizes for parity distribution.

As an industry we laughed at those that talked about 30 pigs per mated female per year and pretty much thought it was an impossible goal as recently as 10 years ago. Now we have people fully expecting to achieve 32-34 pigs per mated female in the coming year with talk of even higher numbers of pigs in coming years.

At the same time we now have production systems talking about the 4 ton sow – 8000 pounds of live weight sales per inventoried female. For most this goal is similar to the 30 pig goal of a few years ago – a seemingly impossible goal. However, as the number of pigs weaned per female increases and sale weights return to the yearly increase this goal is being achieved by a select few already. This kind of number spreads expenditures on genetic improvement over more pounds of live weight sales and is the driving force behind the many extensive investments genetic suppliers are making research and development.

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