December 22, 2011
By giving quality feed to piglets rather than "cheap" creep ration in their first two months, EU pig farmers can earn EUR10,350 (US$13,500) on an average herd size, according to animal nutritionist.
Dr Marian Scott of Devenish Nutrition has been inundated with queries following presentations at three packed seminars in Cookstown, Horse & Jockey, and Mullingar. Pig farmers have responded favourably to her message that cheap pig feed is a "cent wise and euro foolish" approach.
Scott said it was understandable that some pig farmers had opted for cheaper feed, given the high cost of feed and poor pig prices.
However, while a better quality creep feed can cost an extra EUR0.90 (US$1.17) per pig, it produces a pig weighing an extra two kilogrammes at stage one which goes on to finish faster at EUR4.05 (US$5.28) less in overall cost.
This does not include extra energy, labour or building costs for the extra week finishing the pigs.
She said: "The lifetime performance of a pig is determined at the five to eight-week level. Farmers may think they are saving EUR0.90 (US$1.17) per kilogramme by opting for cheaper feed, but that leads to a differential of six kilogrammes at finishing, which means an extra 18 kilogrammes to feed that pig because of the early feeding it missed out on."
When you scale up the extra cost for an average herd size of 500 pigs, producing 23 pigs per year, the profit difference is about EUR10,350 (US$13,500).
The organisers of the three seminars estimate that 60-75% of all pigs produced were represented at these events.
Scott noted that trials at eight units had revealed variations in performance. Ranking the pig performance achieved by these units at eight weeks old and again at 20 weeks produced the clear conclusion that their relative ranking did not change.
A pig lighter at the end of stage one cannot make up ground with those on a so-called expensive creep feed. Typically, they will need an extra 18 days of feeding to slaughter.
Scott said: "The impact of having faster finishing batches that allow you to put more pigs through your unit each year must be strongly emphasised.
"For example, comparing two farms, each with 1,100 pig places, but ranked at the top and bottom of the pig performance league table another 1,210 pigs were sold by the producer achieving a daily live weight gain of 670 grammes. He had 3.5 cycles per annum through the unit, but the bottom ranked farm with only a 520-gramme DLWG figure achieved just 2.4 cycles in 12 months."