I spent time this week thinking about the housing and equipment needs of pigs as we take them to heavier slaughter weights. One item I reviewed was a history of US production averages.
In 1987 Swine Graphics grow-finish cooperators grew pigs from 50 to 235 pounds at 1.46 lb/d with a 3.49 feed conversion. In 2012, grow-finish cooperators in the MetaFarms record system grew pigs from 55 to 270 pounds at 1.80 lb/d with a 2.92 feed conversion. While the improvements in performance are impressive, they didn’t hit home to me until I did some further math with the numbers.
In 1987 it took almost 127 days for a pig in grow-finish to put on 185 pounds of gain. In 2012, 215 pounds of gain were accomplished in 120 days. In 1987 this gain required 640 pounds of feed (mostly corn-soy with some added fat) while in 2012 this gain required only 628 pounds of feed (corn-soy with distillers grains and other alternative ingredients and minimal added fat).
At the same time, manure production has declined. Fecal output is down because of the improvements in nutrient utilization due less feed wastage due to better feeder designs, better utilization due to better diet formulation, better utilization due to genetic advances and better utilization due to better environmental control of production facilities. The total volume of manure (including water wastage) is down due to lower levels of feed intake and improvements in drinking devices, etc.
The addition of phytase to grow-finish diets has dramatically reduced the phosphorus excretion by the growing pig while increased usage of synthetic amino acids has lowered the amount of nitrogen excreted in the manure.
We’ve got a tremendous story of progress to tell the world. Those that would have us revert to the ‘old ways’ of production have not fully understood the improvements we’ve made in resource utilization. As the world population increases and the demand for animal proteins increases we will need to continue to make even greater advances in resource utilization if we expect to meet this demand by the year 2050.