MEASURE. MONITOR. MOVE. Three simple steps to pork production records. Well, maybe not always simple, but certainly valuable. The 2018 USDA census puts the U.S. at 75 million pigs. Pork production is a competitive business. Long gone are the days of measuring success by the balance of the farm account at the end of the year. In order to compete, you need to understand your strengths and weaknesses for implementation of improvement. This is impossible to achieve without a basic records system. Yes, it can seem overwhelming at first but can be accomplished fairly quickly by making a list of to-do items and simply getting started.
MEASURE. Start with the basics and be disciplined. Establishing a comprehensive records program starts with a daily routine for data collection of the basic information including inventory, feed records and marketing data. Weekly collection and entry of mortality and feed data will keep you engaged in your operation. If you’re working with a contract grower, it’s important to establish expectations from the beginning and provide the appropriate paperwork for success.
Purchase a records software or records service. The choices range from excel based spreadsheets to comprehensive service packages. Making the right choice for your operation depends on your level of discipline towards data entry. If you’re willing to spend time weekly on data entry, an excel spreadsheet or subscription to a web-based software may be the appropriate choice. If this isn’t for you, find a partner. Perhaps this is a family member or experienced records service provider.
MONITOR. Step 1 in monitoring is regular evaluation of your data. At the very least monitor health and marketing performance weekly by creating reports you can share with your veterinarian and marketing team. If you cannot sell full value, healthy pigs, success is futile. Set a goal of 30 days or less for finishing a group closeout so you can provide timely feedback to your team.
Next, understand targets and trends. Are you hitting the feed performance targets identified by your nutritionist and making an improvement over time? If not, why? Are you selling at the appropriate weight? Improvement in average daily gain of one-tenth equates to 15 lbs of live weight at the harvest facility. Assuming a $65/cwt return, you’ve captured over $7 per head. Do you know the target weight at the packers you sell to? Conversely, selling too heavy could have the same negative effect on your bottom line. Without knowledge of your targets and trends, it’s a shot in the dark.
Finally, benchmark. I believe it’s important to benchmark both within your own operation and with your peers. Here’s where you’ll find the weak links that lead to real money in your pocket. If your neighbor can get those results, so can you!
MOVE THE NEEDLE! Now it’s time to capture the value of your decision to implement a records program. Almost every client I’ve worked with has areas of opportunity. Find them and be disciplined. Make the necessary changes. Getting help from your professional partners is key. Share this information with your nutritionist and veterinarian regularly. They’re the experts. Use their knowledge to develop action plans for improvement. Objectively evaluate those you’ve chosen to serve as growers and caregivers. Are their facilities and animal husbandry skills capable of returning positive results for your bottom line? Or, maybe it’s time to give them a raise because they bring additional value for your business.
Raising pigs is a 24/7 job. It requires a lot of hard work, but also requires knowledge and understanding. I challenge you to make 2019 the year for understanding and ultimately change for your operation.
Angie Homann, Director of Records and Information.
Being raised on a family farm in North Central Iowa, and a childhood love of 4-H led Angie to pursue a degree in Animal Science from Iowa State. She joined Pipestone Grow Finish in 2012 as an account specialist. Today, Angie is the Director of Records and Information for both Pipestone Grow Finish and Pipestone Management. Her passion for accurate and timely data collection and analysis drives her towards constant improvement for PGF clients and Pipestone Management shareholders. Angie lives in Pipestone, MN with her husband and three children where they enjoy spending time on the family’s show pig project and attending baseball games.