I have been practicing swine veterinary medicine at Pipestone Veterinary Services for ten years, and one of the most frequently asked questions from hog producers is this: “What I can do today to improve my barn and make more money?” And you can’t blame them for asking! Here, I’ve written about Three Things a Hog Producer Can Do Immediately to Make More Money. Not one year from now, not tomorrow……..today.
Two things I would like you to keep in mind when reading this article: 1.) A penny saved is a penny earned. 2.) It takes money to make money. Reducing costs moves you towards the goal, and whatever you put into the pig needs to give you at least that much back. Put those two together and you have a win-win situation.
#1: Ileitis Vaccination
Ileitis lurks everywhere. Once a facility is contaminated it is literally impossible to eliminate in future groups, but there are steps you can take to mitigate the impact of disease. Work with your veterinarian to weigh ileitis vaccine vs. antibiotics. If there are not any other significant health challenges in the barn, there is probably little need for antibiotic. Ileitis vaccine is a more focused and efficient way to manage an Ileitis problem. Pipestone recently ran a trial that compared Tylan 100-40 with commercial Ileitis vaccine. We found no statistical difference in gain, diarrhea score, mortality or culls. However vaccine proved a 2.1% improvement in conversion, which equated to a $3.05/pig difference! Immediate savings.
#2: Selling Pigs Correctly
Seems basic right? But, most of us have room for improvement. Most markets right now want 295 pound pigs and it keeps creeping higher! The pigs keep getting bigger, but your farrow-to-finish complex is fixed in size. So the question is, can you hit those numbers?
Sometimes you need a little guidance. Marketing companies like Big Stone Marketing are experts at analyzing over and under lost opportunity per head and the target weight you should be hitting based on your packer. Let’s look at Hormel for example. Hormel has a target weight of 279 pounds/pig. Missing the mark by 20 lbs under can mean $4.09 loss for that pig; 20 lbs over and it’s $11.85 a pig. Ouch! Work with a marketing company to understand your packer and where you’re going to take the largest hit. Is it better to miss light or heavy? Remember: a penny saved is a penny earned. Once you have the “hot spot” in mind, take a good look at your sorting. Are you loading 17 or 4 pigs over 330 pounds onto the truck? Bad sorting can lose you money in the blink of an eye.
Finally – if you can’t hit the market weights, you may need to consider either expanding your facilities or selling pigs off.
#3: Don’t Skimp on Animal Health
Exactly what you expect a veterinarian to say right? But the market over the past year should speak for itself on this one. Every individual pig has such huge value! Simple approach; work with your veterinarian to identify the problem, the cause, and the solution. One classic example is E. Coli, which can come with 5% mortality ($2/pig loss based on $40 pig cost). If you remedy with an E. coli vaccine at $0.25/pig, peroxide line clean at $0.10/pig, and strategic antibiotic at $0.23/pig, you’re looking at a total cost of $0.58/pig. The potential vaccine versus treatment savings could provide a $1.42/pig advantage. I’ll let the math do the talking. We could run these scenarios over and over again, but the big truth is that animal health pays for itself and more when used correctly and at the direction of your veterinarians.
So there you have it: three things you can do today to make more money. Sometimes these things are easier said than done, but the opportunity is there! Most importantly, to be successful and profitable in the swine industry, the animal’s health and well being must always be the top priority. Work with your veterinarian for the best plan for your operation and watch your margin grow!