It’s winter and our pigs are toasty warm

This morning I’m working on a presentation to be delivered via webinar to pork producers in Taiwan later this week. Among the items the sponsors asked me to address was the issue of why North America and Europe producers have higher productivity levels than producers in Taiwan.

Among the many items in my bucket of reasons is this weekend’s weather. Yesterday morning it was -22F (-30C) in Mankato. While this means we dressed in extra layers when we went outside to shovel snow, etc. our pigs were housed in thermal neutral conditions thanks to advances in our knowledge of housing and ventilation.

For weaned pig facilities and farrowing rooms this advancement includes gas fired furnaces and correctly sized minimum ventilation fans. The end result is our growing pigs have the ability to eat and grow rapidly without having to burn ‘feed for fuel’. This allows us to continue to talk about grow-finish feed conversions in the range of 2.6-2.9 and weaned pig averages greater than 10.5 pigs/litter at 21 days of age often averaging over 13 lb (5.9 kg).

Contrast this with the problems the Taiwan producers face. They live in location where the weather is hot and humid for much of the year. Land for agriculture is limited so pig production is often ‘crowded’ together with little opportunity for all-in/all-out by facility, much less by production site.

This means they struggle with ad libitum feed intake for much of the year due to both heat and disease pressures. The consequence is slower daily gain, smaller weaning weights, more return to estrus issues, etc. than we face.

Yes, it is cold outside this week. But thanks to technology, our pigs don’t know that and their performance benefits from our ability to maintain thermal-neutral conditions and manage facilities all-in/all-out.

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