Benchmark Magazine
Benchmark Magazine is published each spring to highlight the annual results of PigCHAMP's Benchmarking program, and to feature news, commentary and articles of interest written by pork industry experts.

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  • 2018

    Welcome to Benchmark 2018

    Every year, the PigCHAMP team collects a lot of data.

    Hundreds of producers send us backups of their PigCHAMP databases that we compile into personalized reports. We send these reports back to each producer, giving them individualized insights into how they line up with other farms that also share their information. We see the value of keeping precise, daily records.

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  • 2018

    Do All Gilts Lead The Way?

    Using gilts’ performance to gauge future health and production makes sense. The gilt and litter (parity) 1 journey become the building blocks of the parity 2, parity 3 and parity 4 sow.

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  • 2018

    Ensuring Biosecurity

    When it comes to decision making within the swine industry, there are a lot of factors to consider. In this mix of competing priorities, biosecurity and logistics can sometimes take a backseat to topics like genetics, markets or technology. It can be easier to focus on the more enjoyable decisions that need to be made for your farm than it is to address the issues that take more planning to address.

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  • 2018

    Tracking Sow Mortality

    In our industry, sow mortality has become a primary focus for producers, their veterinarians and diagnostic labs.

    Only a short time ago, the mortality rates hovered around 5 percent in nearly all operations. In the past few years, however, the rates have escalated to unbelievable levels, often exceeding 10 percent for several weeks to months.

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  • 2018

    Progress By Benchmarking

    Benchmarking is the process of comparing your business processes and performance metrics to a database, allowing producers to make comparisons of the key drivers for production and profitability. This tool is extremely powerful when all participants use the same record-keeping system, which provides a basis for consistent interpretation.

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  • 2018

    Data-Driven Decision Making

    We have no shortage in the amount of data available today. On the farm, we can access data from such information systems as PigCHAMP, historical data in barn controllers, cost data in accounting software, purchase history data from feed vendors, and software data in your mill. An individual does not have to go far to look for data to evaluate something about his/her pig business.

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  • 2018
  • 2018
  • 2018

    Plotting The Way Ahead

    When we think about swine production in 2018, there’s a lot of areas of the industry to consider. The procurement sector takes great care in making purchasing and processing decisions.

    For this Benchmark article, we asked two professionals in this sector to give some insights into the data they use to support choices and the ways they can use the information they collect to make future decisions.

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  • 2018

    Pocketing Your Pig Production

    Time means everything for producers. Sometimes, it feels like your farm to-do lists are constantly growing. The PigCHAMP team is always looking for ways to help you be more productive in the barn so that you can keep accurate records, make informed decisions and, ultimately, move onto the next item on your list.

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  • 2018

    The Future Of The Industry

    If you could look into a crystal ball to learn about the future of the swine industry, would you? While the PigCHAMP team does not have any magical powers, we do have a lot of great assets – and one of them is you!

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  • 2018

    Mitigating Risk With Discipline

    The National Pork Producers Council has identified over 100 risks that a hog producer can face in any given year.

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  • 2018

    Data Can Help Feed The World

    The United Nations indicated that we’ll need to feed 9.7 billion people by the year 2050. To account for the growing global population, agricultural production will need to increase by 60 per cent, according to World Agriculture Towards 2030/2050.

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  • 2017

    Evidence Based Pig Production

    Raising livestock as part of a business can be challenging in volatile global markets. Many external and internal factors affect income and expenses. In this environment, how can you most effectively control your system through captured data and the key people who operate your enterprise? The best approach, I argue, is to track performance and profitability in as close to real time as possible, and to be able to forecast future performance and revenue.
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  • 2017

    Industry Profiles : Gustavo De Sousa E Silva

    At PigCHAMP, we have the honor to work with producers who raise pigs for a variety of different areas of the pork industry. One such producer is Gustavo de Sousa e Silva, a research scholar in the Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University (ISU). He has worked on several swine-related research projects using PigCHAMP software during his time at ISU and agreed to share some of the details with us.
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  • 2017

    Soaring Bacon Prices : A Boon for Hog Producers!

    Let’s start with the bottom-line for a change: consumer preferences, and hence consumer demand, drive meat prices. The evidence for this fact could not be starker than in pork cuts. With “meaties” craving heartier flavours, like those in bacon, the primal cut value of pork bellies reached US$1.85/lb in February 2017.
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  • 2017

    The Right Staff

    Introverts and extroverts. Analytical and creative. Leaders and followers. Easy-going and meticulous. GED and DVM. The composition of your staff often brings together people of various backgrounds, personalities, education levels and experiences. Knowing what unique qualities each employee can bring to your business helps you build an effective team and make the most of each person’s potential. If built successfully, the whole team is greater than the sum of the individual employees.
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  • 2017

    2016 Year End Summary

    2016 Year End Summary, TOTAL FARMS = 419
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  • 2017

    Creating the Big Picture with Pigchamp Mobile

    We know that you take any and all investments made on your farm very seriously – and we think you should! Making decisions for your operation means taking factors like time, finances, staff and more into consideration.
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  • 2017

    Accelerating Genetic Development And Progress

    Swine genetics companies not only strive to improve product performance for their customers but also to add value throughout the pork production chain. To accomplish these aims, we collect and connect multiple sources of data, including that on purebred and commercial crossbred production performance, reproduction, carcass and packer, genotypes and more. The goal is to improve performance and profitability for everyone that utilizes our products.
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  • 2017

    Replacement Rates : Successful or Not

    Our persuasion about change impacts many aspects of our lives. It affects our perception of risk and thus guides most business and personal decisions. Further, our persuasion about change affects our ability to persuade others, to impact the lives of our clients and our communities, and to affect the course of change,” said Dr. Dave Reeves, BS, MS, DVM, Associate Professor Emeritus.
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  • 2017

    The Hottest Partner in Agriculture

    One of the most overused terms right now on the Internet of things is “big data.” My definition of big data, condensed from multiple sources (and my own experience), is being overwhelmed by the great big amount of data available to you.The more common definition of big data is presented in a more practical way: big data is extremely large amounts of data from multiple sources that can be harnessed to make outcomes better for everyone.
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  • 2017

    Leveraging VFD Information to Improve Decision Making

    Many American producers and veterinarians are still adjusting to the changes that the expanded Veterinary Feed Directives (VFDs) brought at the start of the year. To help ensure judicious use of antibiotics in food-producing animals, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) requires that medications used in animal feed are permitted only under the professional supervision of a licensed veterinarian.
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  • 2017

    How the Consumer Influences a Commerical Breeding Program

    Supplying top genetics for pork production at the lowest costs is at the core of Hypor’s business. To support efficient pork production, Hypor focuses on balanced breeding, which means producing pigs that thrive under all conditions. Balanced breeding contributes to an increase in total system profitability – meaning profitability in the entire value chain.
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  • 2017

    More Than the Sum of the Parts

    Western democracies were built on the belief that when individuals or businesses act in their own self-interests, the most efficient means of production are achieved. However, the question always is: “What exactly is our individual finterest?”Of course, the goal of virtually every business is profit. Not necessarily short-term profit but long-term, stable return on invested capital. That focus means suppliers and customers have to be chosen to support the long-term goals.
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  • 2016

    KPIs in HR

    In the swine industry, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are important to monitor from a human resources perspective as well. The people of your pork production operation are essential to its success. Hiring the right people, then providing the necessary training, guidance, compensation and rewards enable your organization to grow and prosper. Performance management systems help confirm you are meeting objectives and recognize employee accomplishments.
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  • 2016

    Demystifying New VFD Compliance

    If you’re a bit – or even a lot – confused about the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) rule that took effect Oct. 1, 2015, and the new feed and water antibiotic labels that will be phased in by December 2016, you are not alone. That said, the confusion can be lessened. Per Creighton Abrams: “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.” The “elephant” in this case is the new VFD.
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  • 2016

    Four Pillars of Success for America's Pig Farmer of the Year

    For Keith Schoettmer, the success of any pig-farming operation is based on four specific pillars of support. Herd health. Genetics. Buildings and Environment. People and Pig Care. “It’s like a four-legged stool,” explains America’s Pig Farmer of the Year for 2015. “All four legs are very important to success, be it on our farm, or any other farm.”
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  • 2016

    The Impact of VFDS on Swine Production

    Veterinary Feed Directives (VFDs) will fundamentally shift and change how food is produced and will impact every level of production including feed mills, producers and the veterinarians that serve them. There are and will continue to be unknown costs associated with VFDs. Also, feed mills will more than likely be required to police the system.
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  • 2016

    Identifying Measurement Targets to Improve Production Efficiency

    Commercial swine production operates in an increasingly competitive global industry with a wide range of regional challenges, each with their unique characteristics and underlying competitive positioning. However, the primary driving factors of sustainable, cost efficient pork production remain highly consistent across the globe. Identifying appropriate KPI (Key Performance Indicators) that allow monitoring of success and identification of opportunities in a real-time and efficient manner is a critical component to building a culture of continual improvement and high performance. These KPI can take on many forms, from leading to lagging indicators to those that help visualize input, output and financial results.
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  • 2016

    Ahead of The Herd

    Business owners today are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, using computers not only for deskwork, but also for complex field tasks and mobile data collection — and pork producers are no exception. Farm owners who use advanced technology in their operations expect to hire workers who are prepared to use these tools in their daily tasks, without the need for extensive training. Fortuitously, most of today’s agriculture students have used computers daily for their entire lives, and they expect to use productivity-enhancing technology in their jobs to simplify tasks and improve their work performance.
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  • 2016

    KPI Thoughts From Russia

    To get a perspective of what Key Performance Indicators are important to pork producers in Russia, PigCHAMP representative Olga Miroshnikova asked several leading producers for their thoughts. Here are some of the responses.
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  • 2016

    Hogs in Demand as a Safe Haven Investment!

    Most commodities have plummeted in 2016, responding to a weaker macro-economic picture, but the one exception, oddly, seems to be hog futures, which have rung in a healthy 6% rise thus far making it the best performing commodity in the first quarter of 2016. There are 4 key forces or trends that remain a tailwind for hog futures in 2016, and are brewing up a perfect storm
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  • 2016

    Industry Impacts

    The implementation of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Guidance 213 will signal one of the most significant changes ever in the regulation of antibiotics in food animal production. These impacts are likely to vary depending on the type of producer or veterinary practice. However, the overall impact on public perception of food animal production will be dependent on the industry’s commitment to successfully implementing the changes outlined in the FDA guidance.
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  • 2016

    The New VFD Rule

    In June 2015 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), due to increased concerns and pressures surrounding the use of antimicrobials in livestock, implemented a new Veterinary Feed Directive1 (VFD). The result is that all use of antibiotics for the purpose of treating disease – prevention, control, and therapy – will soon require veterinary oversight. All drugs that the FDA has identified and ranked as important to human medicine (Guidance 152 Appendix A2) will require a VFD beginning on January 1, 2017. Additionally, through Guidance 2133, the FDA is transitioning food animals away from all growth promoter use of medically important antibiotics, and establishing veterinary oversight via prescription for use of therapeutic antibiotics in water.
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  • 2016

    Benchmarking Summary 2015

    Pork production today is ever-changing and has many stakeholders throughout the value chain. We can get so caught up sometimes with taking care of our direct duties that we may not do a good job of keeping abreast of those other segments that impact the pork industry. I take pride in having some key resources to increase my awareness of performance issues and opportunities in these segments. That’s one reason why I’ve been following PigCHAMP’s Benchmark data since 2000.
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  • 2016

    Overcoming Unique Challenges

    To get a completely different point of view of what factors are critical to the success of pork operations in parts of the world with very different challenges from what is seen in North America, Benchmark spoke to Kiddivong Sombuntham, Head of the Swine Division for Japfa Comfeed with swine operations in Vietnam and Natasha Ferguson, PigCHAMP technical consultant for South Africa.”
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  • 2016

    Prepare for New Antibiotic Regulations Now

    If ever the old adage “There’s no time like the present” carried meaning, it is today. Pork producers need to start preparing for the Jan. 1, 2017, deadline, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will implement new regulations for antibiotic use on the farm.
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  • 2016

    Upcoming Changes Regarding Antibiotic Use; Increasing Veterinary Oversight

    We are now less than a year away from the implementation of new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations that will eliminate sub-therapeutic (growth promotion) use of antibiotics deemed medically important for human medicine, as well as increase veterinary oversight of antibiotics used for therapeutic purposes.
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  • 2016

    Key Production Indicators

    Efficient sow reproduction is fundamental to achieving a successful, sustainable and economically viable swine industry. Many economists have shown us that the swine industry in North America continues to improve on the number of pigs weaned per litter. Therefore, a key production indicator (KPI) used to assess the efficiency of sow performance is the number of pigs weaned per litter, per year, or per lifetime. The modern hyperprolific sow has a great potential to produce numerous quality piglets at weaning.
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  • 2015

    Cargill Goes Mobile

    In the mid-1990s, when cell phones were still the size of a brick and computers dominated desktops, handheld data collection was a fledgling but promising innovation for the pork industry. Pigtales, then owned by PIC, first developed a commercial handheld mobile device in 1994, but it never really took off amongst producers – the technology was still in its infancy; internet and wireless connectivity was not yet widely adopted; and the paper and pen had not yet been replaced by touchscreen and Ipads.
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  • 2015

    Genetic Improvements – A Key Component to Success on The Farm

    Together we live in a dynamic and exciting business environment in which the market and technology are constantly changing. In this context Topigs Norsvin must make the right strategic choices to follow our vision “Progress in pigs. Every day.” Topigs Norsvin’s mission is to serve people, planet, and profit. We do this by striving to be the most innovative genetic company in the world.
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  • 2015

    Precision Feeding is The Future of Swine Production

    What’s the future of swine production in Ontario? One thought is precision feeding gestating sows for increased economic efficiency and decreased environmental impact, say researchers at the University of Guelph.
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  • 2015

    Iowa Lakes Community College- Preparing Students for a Future in the Swine Industry

    When Kelly Dodge returned to teach at her alma mater at Iowa Lakes Community College, she brought with her the skills, knowledge and tools she had gained in more than 14 years in the pork production industry. Among those tools was PigCHAMP Knowledge Software, which is now a key teaching tool in Iowa Lake’s Agriculture Production Technology Program.
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  • 2015

    AgCareers.com: a Vision to Drive the Talent Pipeline

    More than ten years ago, Eric Spell saw that the agricultural industry needed to raise the bar on recruitment practices in order to drive the talent pipeline. In the early 2000s, Monster.com, CareerBuilder and other job boards started to pop up on the internet. “That is when the light bulb in my head started flashing and I went to work designing a website for online recruitment in agriculture,” shared Spell, President of AgCareers.com.
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  • 2015

    Tackling The Changing Landscape of Pork Production in China

    With over 50% of worldwide pig production, 735 million marketed pigs in 2014, China is the powerhouse leader of the world’s swine industry. By comparison, the world’s second largest producer, the United States, is only 1/5th of China’s size. Indeed, many market opportunities exist due to China’s dominating size, but even more exist due to the significant productivity gaps across its pig production.
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  • 2015

    Benchmarking Summary 2014

    Benchmarking is an inevitable part of any production process. It can be done informally, through comparisons during conversations at meetings or other get-togethers. It can be done through retrospective comparisons, by asking producers to recall prior productivity levels. Finally, it can be done by taking the records and analyzing the data in a standardized method across farms.
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  • 2015

    An Overview of the Last 10 Years of Benchmarking Data

    This article is simply an overview of the last ten years of benchmarking data from the Pigchamp.com database of reproductive trait performance. Over a ten year period there is some change to be expected in the reproductive performance of swine herds in the USA. But just how much change is expected, and what has been seen in the data?
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  • 2015

    Effects of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus on Sow Herd Reproduction

    Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) was confirmed in the United States in May of 2013, and quickly spread across the swine industry. Sow farms affected experienced up to 100% mortality in baby pigs for three to four weeks on average before enough immunity had developed in the sow herd. Nurseries also experienced increased mortality as many of these piglets were weaned at a young age. Loose stools spread through the farrowing house as well as the breeding and gestation barns. Sows were also vomiting and off-feed.
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  • 2015

    Building Innovation into What We Do - Everyday

    At Prairie Swine Centre we start every meeting with a safety tip. Today’s safety tip is also an innovation – the deadstock mover. According to workplace research we should be careful when lifting anything greater than 15% of our body weight (source: Kansas State University), and the fewer steps we take carrying heavy objects the better. Sows die, sometimes in awkward places, and sows are much greater than 15% of any ‘group’ of people’s combined body weight. Various devices exist to assist this removal task, usually involving a rig similar to a bagged feed cart with a knuckle-breaker hand winch located inconveniently around the height of your shoulder.
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  • 2015

    The Power of PigCHAMP Data to Propel The Industry Forward

    Across the globe, PigCHAMP databases house records on millions of animals. On the farm, managers use this information to make daily management decisions – to breed or to cull? To retain or to sell? Analysis of cumulative data helps managers with long-term business planning and decision making. Users of PigCHAMP software have come to rely on this data to manage their day-to-day operations, to grow their farm businesses and to keep their animals healthy.
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  • 2014

    Do We Dare to Demand Connected Hog Systems?

    One of the many challenges facing pork producers is the ever-increasing amount of information that is being generated and made available for decision-making inside and outside of the operation. BENCHMARK editors sat down with Curtiss Littlejohn, long-time pork producer, industry advocate and now Swine Product Manager at Canarm Ag Systems to get his insight into how the industry can turn disparate data sources into information used to make better decisions.
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  • 2014

    Decision Making and The Grow-Finish Operation, a Pigchamp Survey

    Growing and finishing pigs carries with it a unique position; one in which factors occurring both upstream (those at the reproductive level) and downstream (those closer to market/packing) can have a significant impact on an operation. The relationship is, however, multi-layered, as the decisions made at the grow-finish level can also influence the choices on either side of the production chain.
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  • 2014

    Marketing Decisions are Key in Good and Bad Years!

    The record feed prices of the last couple years generated huge financial losses for hog producers. Does anyone remember the 2012 drought that caused feed prices to soar by as much as $65/head unless you grew your own corn to feed your hogs? Poor feed booking decisions in late 2011 and early 2012 could have cost a hog producer a bundle of money.
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  • 2014

    Benchmarks for The Evaluation of Single Fixed-Time Artificial Insemination

    When using single fixed-time AI, all sows within a single weaning group are treated the same. All subsequent matings are synchronized from the weaning date and time. In order to obtain optimum results after treatment, daily boar exposure and proper feed intake must not be restricted. The treatment is administered intravaginally to healthy sows 96 hours after weaning. Twenty-four hours later, all sows are inseminated with a single dose of semen without regard to estrus. Thus, there is no need for heat detection, which effectively decreases labor costs and increases throughput and utilization of inventory.
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  • 2014

    The Influence of Pigchamp in Swine Production in Latin Countries

    BENCHMARK editors wanted to get the perspective of someone who has applied long-term visionary thinking to opportunities in swine production and experienced the impact of that thinking over a long period of time. We could not think of a better source than veterinarian Martha Acosta, who has helped hundreds of producers from Mexico to Brazil improve their productivity and insight into effective and profitable pork production.
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  • 2014

    Total Rewards Impact Employee Recruitment and Retention

    Making decisions based solely on short-term results can have a negative long-term impact on employee retention and organizational outlook. Developing stronger benefit and incentive packages now can go a long way toward recruiting and retaining employees and ensuring future success of the organization. Human capital is the backbone of the pork industry, which requires thousands of employees to complete the pork production process.
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  • 2014

    2013 Benchmark Summary - USA

    It is difficult to define a “typical” sow herd. Size differs. Ownership differs. Herd objectives differ. Some are contracted to sell weaned piglets while others produce piglets to be finished within their own facilities or flow in a multi-sourced system. Many are commercial herds, others are in the business of genetic multiplication. Some purchase their replacements; others produce their own. Some herds experience significant disease challenges; others are relatively healthy.
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  • 2014

    Managing Sows for Optimum Retention

    Sow removal and replacement is a necessary part of optimizing herd performance. It is a balance between keeping the herd young enough, while maintaining a significant number of sows between parities three and five in the system. Sow longevity is a complex phenomenon, influenced by many factors, including genetics, gilt and sow price, nutritional programs, gilt development, reproductive performance and health status. Recent analysis of herd records from more than 700,000 sows across 355 U.S. swine farms revealed an average replacement rate of 53.55 percent, calculated as number of animals culled plus number of sows that died (PigCHAMP, 2013).
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  • 2014

    Practical Application and Interpretation of Benchmarking Data, a Pigchamp Survey

    Numbers are everywhere in pork production. From the simplest sow cards to custom, user-defined reports generated in PigCHAMP, collecting, managing and scrutinizing data related to your operation can provide a great deal of insight. Whether you have underperforming sows or high cull rates, information is vital to maximizing efficiency and ensuring a correction can be made in problem areas.
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  • 2014

    Novel Vaccines and Improvement in Pig Production

    In the year since the first confirmed cases of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) virus occurred in North America, the U.S. swine industry has learned an unprecedented amount of information about the disease in a relatively short amount of time. However, we are far from being able to fully predict the economic ramifications of the disease. Harrisvaccines, is one company that knows that there always will be newly emerging and ever-changing or mutating viruses that affect pork production profitability.
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  • 2014

    What will be The Long Term Effects of Pedv After Exposure?

    As the Spring weather tries to break through on a winter that doesn’t seem to stop, many producers are still apprehensive about Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv). About a year ago, PEDv became active in the United States.
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  • 2014

    View Past Decisions with Fresh Eyes

    We are going to take a walk through the barn with a new, fresh set of eyes. Our eyes and habits are focused, blinded to what has become a daily routine of accepting we are in ‘survival mode’ which translates into – “no money to fix that”. Today is different. I am accompanied by a new employee, she is a rare find. No pig experience, but has significant animal background; she has tried a few careers and, as a mature individual, has developed an interest in reconnecting with livestock.
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  • 2013

    Keys to Successful Benchmarking

    It’s a perfect time to reflect on the business side of things and plans to make an operation even more competitive. From a production standpoint, what is it going to take to be competitive in 2013 and beyond? What type of improvement did we make in 2012? How do we know if we’re moving forward or backward in the different segments of production? What method is used to get the information to employees, owners and decision-makers?
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  • 2013

    Using Production Data to Make Decisions

    Swine Management Services, LLC (SMS) is owned by Ron Ketchem and Mark Rix. The company is involved in production analysis, financial analysis, employee training, farm consulting, bookkeeping and has a data entry bureau using PigCHAMP. They currently work with producers, primarily in the USA and Canada. Their mission statement is to provide “information solutions” for the swine industry.
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  • 2013

    Impact of Gilt Breeding Condition on Lifetime Productivity and Performance

    Many different recommendations are found in swine literature and in the field regarding the “ideal” stage of first breeding. It is not clear whether this comes from different characteristics of the genetic lines or from the fact that age, body weight and degree of fatness (measured by the back fat thickness) are interrelated.
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  • 2013

    A Lenders View of the US Pork Industry

    At AgStar, we are very fortunate to work with some of the best producers in the United States. We are often asked about our perspective on the industry. I’d first like to share the current “profile” of a successful producer and then I’ll focus on the future, from an overview of the US pork industry.
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  • 2013

    Elevating the Image of Careers in the Swine Industry

    The swine industry is plagued with a negative stereotype that job opportunities are unrewarding and labor intensive. However, as industry professionals we know that this is untrue and that careers in the industry can be gratifying and encompass much more than most think.
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  • 2013

    Alberta Pilots Traceability Project Using PigCHAMP® Mobile

    Over the past 3 years, PigCHAMP has been actively involved in several government-funded projects in Canada to help provide efficient, low cost solutions for producers to help comply with animal traceability regulations. The following article, prepared with the cooperation of The Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, provides the results of one of these projects. It shows that traceability compliance does not have to be costly and time consuming, and that with the right technology, you can actually provide better efficiency and time savings throughout a farm’s operation.
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  • 2013

    How I Utilize Benchmarking

    Benchmarking is an extremely useful and important tool to measure a producer’s competitiveness in today’s pork industry. There remains significant variation in production and economic parameters between producers. Accurate benchmarking helps producers verify competitiveness and/or prioritize efforts to become more competitive.
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  • 2013

    Summary of the 2012 Benchmarking Data

    As a whole, PigCHAMP continues to see opportunities, particularly for those farms in the lower percentiles of specific productivity measures. 2012 has brought another year of improved productivity and a continued wide range of performance across farms.
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  • 2013

    Sow Non-Productive Days and Their Opportunity Costs

    Opportunity costs can be defined as the opportunities forgone in the choice of one expenditure over others. We have the opportunity to work with farms ranging from 80 sows to 7,000 sows at our veterinary practice in Manitoba, Canada. No matter the farm size, shape or product, hog farms in 2013 cannot afford to leave dollars on the table at the end of the day.
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  • 2012

    Have We Really Improved Sow Longevity and Lifetime Performance?

    Sow longevity is often discussed with relation to gilt development and retention. Foxcroft stated that gilt entry was one of the most critical factors driving sow longevity. (Foxcroft et al., 2006). Over the last six years there has been more emphasis on gilt development, with the implementation of buildings specifically for the growing gilt, diets formulated for lifetime performance and labor trained to specifically work with the gilts.
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  • 2012

    Benchmarking Employee Performance

    Within an operation there are so many data points to collect, collate and analyze to improve performance and profitability. From conception rates to feed efficiency and rate of gain to mortality rates, producers are inundated with performance measurements. However, a crucial factor to the profitability equation is often overlooked – employee performance measurements.
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  • 2012

    How to Achieve Less Than 3% Wean to Finish Mortality

    Most organizations have a laundry list of how to achieve wean to finish mortality of less than 3%; but only in the last few years have I drilled down further to look at other factors that can be controlled to achieve that benchmark in wean to finish.
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  • 2012

    Thoughts on Cross-Fostering

    Over the past few decades the US swine industry has made quantum leaps in the prolificacy of its sow herds. In the past, when people talked of production levels of 30 pigs/sow/year, they were considered “dreamers”. Today some top managed sow farms are achieving this level of production, and many more are pushing hard on this milestone. To achieve these levels of production the goal must be to wean as many good, healthy pigs as is possible, and a number of farrowing facilities have implemented a variety of Cross-fostering strategies in an attempt to achieve this goal.
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  • 2012

    Simple Math Can Miss Opportunities

    For the many farms that finish pigs, the return for all their efforts is not realizable until the pig walks into the slaughter plant. Since we have come to recognize the role that people have in the success of pig production, it seems only natural to ask about the association between truck drivers and dead on arrival [DOAs] at the plant. However, when working in a biological system, few relationships are as simple as they may seem.
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  • 2012

    Are High Hog Futures Here to Stay?

    In 2011, by early April, CME Lean Hog futures had already achieved an intraday record high for the June futures contract at US $104.10/cwt, only to retest the high at $104.35 by May 2011. The contract eventually moved lower by $12.50/cwt to go off the board at $91.85/cwt. The only futures contract that achieved an even greater high was the 2011 August futures contract, which expired at a new all-time record of US $107.45/cwt.
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  • 2012

    When We Benchmark, Do We Really Understand the Numbers?

    The term benchmark was originally used by surveyors to refer to points with known elevation and geographic position. All land survey measurements were required to be referenced to the known benchmarks to be legally binding; after all, what good is a set of measures and vectors if you don’t have a known starting point. The benchmark seems rather ancient when we consider the technology we have at our fingertips today with global positioning systems but alas, even the GPS systems use benchmarks on earth to function properly. In many cases our farm production measures are much like a survey with no benchmark or known starting point.
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  • 2012

    Pork Production Trends Summary of the 2011 Data

    Besides the immediate benefit to PigCHAMP customers, our international benchmarking comparisons provide industry influencers with a bird’s eye view of key production indicators, helping them track pork production trends.
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  • 2012

    A Look Beyond Basic Production Records

    Records systems have been available for more than twenty-five years, with the first activity starting when PigCHAMP© became available in the mid 80s. Record systems help producers track every possible production parameter in an effort to measure, monitor, and ultimately manage these parameters. Routine review of production records can help identify changes before they become clinically obvious or at least obvious enough to warrant a phone call to the attending veterinarian.
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  • 2012

    Competitive Advantage Through Information Usage

    More information is available now than ever before (Google is processing more than 24 petabytes per day), but this abundance is not a guarantee of success. Having information at the right time is paramount, as is connecting data that has no apparent relationship.
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  • 2011

    HR Outlook Shows Improvement

    The improvement and growth of the agriculture economy means more jobs are becoming available within the industry. "The outlook for hiring employees in the pork industry is excellent for 2011," says Eric Spell, president of AgCareers. com. "This year, we?ve seen a significant increase in job listings in the pork industry on AgCareers.com".
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  • 2011

    Future of Swine Recordkeeping is Here. Now.

    When the PigCHAMP Care 3000 software program was introduced in 2007, it quietly marked an important turning point in commercial pork production. PigCHAMP had taken the combined knowledge of nearly 30 years of working with producers, consultants, veterinarians and allied industry to create the standard in reproductive record keeping and analysis for the next 30 years. Within six months, the new PigCHAMP became the most widely used swine program in North America.
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  • 2011

    Averages are Not Sufficient Benchmarks for The Future

    We know that almost all benchmarking is carried out utilizing the average value of the various performance metrics of the farm over a period of time. The average is a very important and revealing number, and while it is still necessary, it is no longer sufficient to tune production systems for the challenge laid down by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). We know that averages by themselves hide a lot of critical information in the production process.
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  • 2011

    Dietary Guidelines for The Breeding Herd

    The National Swine Nutrition Guide (NSNG) is a sensible, easy-to-use source of nutrition information and recommendations. Its companion piece, the Diet Evaluation and Formulation Software DVD, is also very user-friendly and has the flexibility for producers to custom-build their rations based on feedstuffs available, their own nutrient analyses of feedstuffs and their own desires as far as the final nutrient makeup of the diet is concerned.
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  • 2011

    Grow/Finish Data: An Untapped Resource

    From weekly performance monitors in the sow herd to group closeouts in finishing, pork producers are accustomed to looking at data. Targets are established, performance is compared and improvements are pursued.
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  • 2011

    Examine New Traits to Gain Herd Production Efficiency

    Historically, the majority of the selection emphasis for maternal line selection has focused on number of pigs born alive and 21-day litter weight. While these traits adequately measure overall sow productivity, selection based on these two traits alone would not incorporate sow efficiency evaluation or measurement. Just because a sow can produce a litter with a large number of heavy piglets at weaning, does not mean that she is profitable to the producer.
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  • 2011

    Find Problems Faster with Proper Use of Records

    Breeding herd records are central to our industry and our daily lives. As the old adage goes, "You can't manage what you can't measure." Record systems help producers track every possible production parameter in an effort to measure, monitor and, ultimately, manage these parameters.
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  • 2011

    Hog Futures are In Hog Heaven!

    The last time hog futures achieved record highs was when the June 2009 futures contract reached US$100.30/cwt in the summer of 2008, when China was buying a record amount of U.S. pork for the Summer Olympics. Unfortunately, when this Chinese demand evaporated, coupled with the global recession in the fall and winter of 2008 and the drop in feed prices, hog futures fell hard.
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  • 2011

    Impact of Managing Gilt Service Interval on Gilt Performance

    This study investigated relationships between gilts that had at least one recorded estrus prior to breeding compared to gilts that had none. The subsequent performance over their lifetime was compared with gilts that did not have a recorded heat. This population study was conducted using 258 farms (330,000 sows) that are located in North America. The data was sourced from PigCHAMP® Knowledge Center Database from 2007 to 2009. This article provides insight into recording and heat-checking gilts.
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  • 2011

    Practical On-Farm Use of Benchmarking

    As defined in Wikipedia, benchmarking "is the process of comparing one's business processes and performance metrics to industry bests and/or best practices from other industries." At The HANOR Family of Companies, we use the PigCHAMP benchmarking reports to compare ourselves with some of the best producers in the industry.
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  • 2011

    Summary of the 2010 Data

    Benchmarking provides an opportunity for the retrospective review of industry performance. The present year-end summaries reveal interesting numbers in comparison to what we saw five years ago. 2010 was another year of improved overall performance for U.S. herds, despite wide variations among individual farms. The U.S. herds showed significant improvements in performance in terms of key variables of average pigs born alive per litter (11.47 versus 10.64 perviously), farrowing rate (81.46 compared to 78.54 previously) and pigs weaned per mated female per year (23.09 versus 21.78 previously).
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  • 2011

    The Strategic Environment

    The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations recently issued a report announcing that the world is confronting the staggering challenge of increasing food production 50 percent by the year 2030 and doubling total food production by the year 2050. If this Herculean challenge is not enough, it will take place in an environment where many of the old standards, rules of thumb and other landmarks of familiarity used by producers to understand their businesses are fading away rapidly.
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  • 2010

    What's in a Number?

    Numbers give us confidence. The ability to take a measurement provides a sense of security - a sense that we know how things really are - a sense that we know the 'truth.' To paraphrase W.E. Demming, if we measure something, we should expect improvement. It seems that the energy spent in the process of measurement can translate into improvement of the process as a whole.
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  • 2010

    What a Difference a Year Makes!

    In 2009, the hog industry was shocked with the outbreak of H1N1 virus, also commonly known and misconceived as "Swine Flu." Historically, diseases of this sort that seem to be tied to a commodity linger for 3 to 4 months but usually pass with time. That is exactly what happened. Last year, by the time the end of August rolled around, someone rang the bell at the bottom and the CME Lean hog futures never looked back.
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  • 2010

    Tying the Traits Together

    Over the past 10 years, the average culling frequency of breeding herd females in U.S. commercial swine herds has been 45% and the average sow mortality rate has been 8% (PigCHAMP ™). The primary culling reasons reported for young sows are reproductive failure and leg problems. Therefore, the maintenance of acceptable reproduction rates in young females and the selection of structurally sound replacement females are important factors in increasing sow lifetime reproduction.
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  • 2010

    The Question: To Cull or Not to Cull

    he production system commonly used in the swine industry involves a three-tiered genetic pyramid. The nucleus, where most genetic improvement occurs, is at the top of the pyramid and represents the smallest percentage of total animals in the production system. The second tier is called the multiplication level and is where the improvement occurring at the nucleus herd is multiplied or produced in mass.
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  • 2010

    Sow Reproductive Stayability and Lifetime Traits

    Sow longevity is an important economic and animal well-being trait that can be improved by selection for more robust animals. Selection for sow longevity could be performed indirectly by selection for improved fertility, or directly by implementing a longevity trait. The longevity trait could be either longevity (e.g. days in herd), stayability (removal or not after a certain parity) or lifetime production (measured in number of piglets or piglet weight).
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  • 2010

    Profit Robbers

    My partners and I at the Swine Vet Center work diligently with clients to maximize efficiency (i.e., produce the most pigs at the lowest cost), and strive to make them "best profit producers." In reality, these things should always be done but with the current financial crisis, producers must continually look for every way possible to achieve efficiency.
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  • 2010

    PigCHAMP: Locked and Loaded

    Long considered the pork industry leader in data management, PigCHAMP reinforces its position with new, advanced products designed to help business-minded pork producers make knowledge-based decisions. In this interview, PigCHAMP General Manager Bob Brcka provides an update on the company's vision for the future.
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  • 2010

    Learning to Live with Ethanol

    The ethanol industry has experienced rapid growth following the implementation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The act states that U.S. domestic production of renewable fuels should reach 7.5 billion gallons in annual production by 2012. In Canada, different provincial standards have been created to ensure that all gasoline contain at least 5 to10% ethanol.
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  • 2010

    Gilt Performance and Average Age at Breeding

    The swine industry has seen many changes in production systems over the last 15 years: the move to artificial insemination; split site production; and the increase in the average size of sow farms, to name a few. These changes have been driven by the need to keep up with consumer demands for uniform, high quality, safe pork products. The industry now requires skilled production workers, often with specific abilities within the farm production unit to meet this demand
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  • 2010

    Genetic Improvement of Sow Longevity

    Sow longevity represents the sow's ability to stay and remain productive at an acceptable level within commercial swine breeding herds. Inferior sow longevity is currently a problem with 50% or more of the sows removed in the US and other countries annually (Engblom et al., 2007; Rodriguez-Zas et al., 2003). Today, the majority of sows in the US commercial herds are removed in their early parities, mainly due to reproductive disorders.
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  • 2010

    Engage Your Workforce

    The overall economy, H1N1, and perceptions of the swine industry have all had an impact on the view potential and current employees have about employment in the pork sector. Some would say that there is a dark cloud hanging over the industry at the moment. But, is it really as doom and gloom as some may think?
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  • 2010

    USA 2009 - Annual Summary

    USA 2009 - Annual Summary
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  • 2010

    Canada 2009 - Annual Summary

    Canada 2009 - Annual summary
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  • 2010

    Achieving 30 Pigs/Sow/Year

    In North America, we have come to respect the Danes for their extremely disciplined approach to pig production but have at the same time tended to discount some of their outstanding production figures due to the fact that these were typically small farms. Regardless of geographical location, we all operate under the same constraints when it comes to reproductive efficiency. If “pigs weaned per female per year” is the measure we choose to employ, then the productivity tree has the same components
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  • 2010

    Summary Of The 2009 Data

    The 2009 PigCHAMP summaries for the United States and Canada show another year of improved productivity overall. The availability of vaccines to control Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome (PRRS) has likely had a major impact on production results. While productivity as a whole is better, we still see a wide range of performance between the upper and lower percentile in various production parameters.
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  • 2009

    Genetic Improvement of Farrowing Rate in Pigs

    In our current times of high feed prices and increasing expense of inputs, the cost of maintaining the sow herd has risen greatly over the past few years.

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  • 2009

    PigCHAMP Reinvented and Revitalized

    It seems to me that one of the few sustainable advantages for North American
    producers may be the ability to collect useful data, process the data quickly and accurately into information, and immediately execute change to increase efficiencies and performance based on that information.
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  • 2009

    Save Money by Keeping Sows Longer

    Sow removal is receiving more attention due to its impact on economic and animal well being considerations. High removal rate of breeding herd females is associated with poor longevity. When the average longevity is low, improvements can be highly profitable (Sehested, 1996). A decreased removal rate of sows reduces the costs for replacement gilts and thereby increases net income. 
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  • 2009

    Hire Right!

    Hiring the ‘right’ candidate isn’t as easy as advertising a position, reviewing a few resumes, or asking a few questions during an interview. A lot of work, preparation and practice are needed to perfect the art of finding the ‘right’ candidate.

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  • 2009

    Comparison of Canadian and American Herds

    We continue to see significant differences between Canadian and American herds as well as differences in performance by season. As in previous years, Canadian herds are consistently higher in nearly all of the production parameters measured by PigCHAMP, as exhibited in the graphs shown here. 
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  • 2009

    The 2009 Global Economic Recession and Agriculture

    What a difference a year makes! In 2008, the livestock and grain complexes experienced new contract highs for many futures contracts. See the June 2008 CME Lean hog chart (Figure 1) closing at U.S. $100.20/cwt on July 3, 2008. We also experienced the July 2008 Chicago corn futures contract closing at U.S. $8.1575/bu on June 26, 2008.
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  • 2009

    Know When to Cull and Replace

    Sow culling and subsequent replacement rates represent economic opportunities for producers. According to PigCHAMP Annual Summaries, sow culling rates have increased over the last 10 years from median values of 43.6% to 48.7% and averages of 45.5% to 47.0%. Sow culling serves two general purposes.
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  • 2009

    Variation in Sow Farm Output

    Here is a simple question: What is the difference between pigs per sow per year and pigs per sow space per year? This is a more complicated question than you might think, but it is an important question, particularly as we look at sow longevity. Sows are removed from the herd due to death, or due to culling under three scenarios:
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  • 2009

    Benchmarking Sow Lifetime Productivity

    The pork industry is becoming more interested in the length of time that sows remain productive within commercial operations. The interest in this trait is largely the result of the very tight economic situation that virtually all pork producers are currently experiencing throughout the world. Furthermore, the general public is becoming more concerned with the activities associated with the production of the meat they consume and animal well-being on the operations that produce this food. Furthermore, producers benefit when sows remain productive for a longer period of time in their breeding herds.

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  • 2009

    Summary Of The 2008 Data

    Yearly benchmarks serve as “state-of-the-industry” reports that provide both motivation for change and recognition for how far the industry has come. The PigCHAMP annual year-end benchmark, for example, reports average production values as well as the upper and lower 10th
    percentile values for participating sow farms.
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  • 2009

    Disciplined Benchmarking

    In the literature, benchmarking is viewed as a valuable but often abused business practice. It also takes more work and discipline than we sometimes plan to invest. To review the opportunities and threats of benchmarking, we have enlisted the guidance of the author Anne Evans, whose article, Avoid These Ten Benchmarking Mistakes, can be found at www. swine.farms.com 
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  • 2008

    Prepare a Survival Kit

    Times are tough for U.S. pork producers: Feed prices are high and likely will stay at some new high level for the foreseeable future. Market hog prices are currently low with a record volume of pork on the market. Demand is good and packer slaughter capacity is not being challenged, which are both blessings. However, in spite of the positives in the market, essentially all producers are seeking ways to economize, cut costs, improve efficiencies and generally work to improve profitability. It was in this vein that the National Pork Board began accumulating a list of tips for addressing high feed costs and high production costs.
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  • 2008

    Profitability Begins with People

    Professors, authors, consultants and astute professionals lecture that the success of a business is dependent upon the people who work there - a simple and believable statement. However, achieving this success is easier said than done.
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  • 2008

    Principles of Quality Management

    As margins continue to squeeze pork producers, optimization holds the key to improving profitability. Optimization is the condition where the system is operated at its best. In many ways, the phase-segregated nature of swine production is designed for suboptimization, the opposite of optimization. We’ve established local targets and local rewards that pit one phase against another. For example, a sow unit might be recognized for the number of pigs it produces—but not the quality of those pigs. And many of the substandard pigs received at the nursery will be unable to meet the criteria required for them to move on to the finishing phase. As a result, the highly productive sow unit will cause the nursery to operate with higher mortality and poorer feed conversion.
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  • 2008

    New Handling Strategies

    Improved understanding of the major management factors impacting finisher pig behavioral and physiological responses during handling and transportation has recently emerged as an area of concern in the swine industry.
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  • 2008

    Variation in Sow Farm Output

    One of the major determinants of the value of sow farm output is the level of production and the variation of that production. Underproduction results in downstream underutilization of growing pig capacity. It also results in more mixing of pigs as other sources of pigs are often used to fill in the gap created by a low-producing sow herd. Not only is there an on-farm component of underproduction, but there is also seasonal underproduction that results in higher prices available during the times when most sow farms underperform.

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  • 2008

    Managing Respiratory Disease

    Respiratory Disease in the finishing stage of production is a challenge for both producers and swine veterinarians, and the complexity of managing these diseases has increased due to interaction of the agents in this stage of production. Common agents include: Swine influenza (SIV), Porcine respiratory reproductive syndrome (PRRS), Porcine Circo virus type 2 (PCV2), mycoplasma, Actinobacillus suis, Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia, Pasteurella Multocida, and other bacterial agents. Viral agents seem to be the biggest problems to control

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  • 2008

    Feed Management is Key

    With rising input costs and narrower profit/loss margins, it’s more important than ever to monitor feed usage. There is a system designed to do just that. The PigCHAMP Care Feed Allocation System (FAS) automates the time-consuming, sometimes complicated task of feed ordering. This webbased system allows producers to have the right feed delivered at the right time in an easy, efficient and verified manner.

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  • 2008

    Consider the Alternatives

    The rapid increase in the cost of energy for transportation and the growth of the biofuels industry has lead to tremendous change in the cost of ingredients for swine diets. It appears we are leaving a time of consistency and relative predictability in ingredient prices to an era of price volatility and unknown. Planting acreage and yield have always impacted ingredient prices.

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  • 2008

    Watch Weaning-to-Estrus Intervals

    One of the greatest influences on weaning-to-estrus interval is the management of sows during lactation. During this time, the reproductive organs of sows have a chance to recover from their previous pregnancy. It is well established that levels of reproductive hormones in the brain that stimulate estrus and ovulation are very low immediately after farrowing. 

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  • 2008

    Monitoring Sows Bred by Seven Days

    As we review various production indices, it has become evident that there are two main methods of summarizing such indices. The first is a classical method, of providing an average. The second is what we call a “proportion” or a “management by specification.” In the case of measuring the wean-to-service interval, PigCHAMP provides two alternatives.

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  • 2008

    Get Ready for Higher Inputs

    The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides a gauge of livestock and crop intentions through its quarterly reports. Sometime those reports create angst and uncertainty among producers, as was the case with the March Hogs and Pigs report as well as the March planting intentions report. From a swine perspective, the biggest surprise was the prediction of larger than expected hog supplies through September 2008.

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  • 2008

    Understanding Sow Mortality

    Due to historically high feed prices and relatively low prices for market hogs, U.S. profit margins will continue to shrink .U.S. commercial pork producers need to continue to focus on improving production efficiency and improving sow mortality. To comprehend the current sow mortality levels it is important to have a historical perspective and reference.

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  • 2008

    Summary of the 2007 Data

    The summary data can be segmented in various ways, but a common comparison is between the United States and Canada. As in previous years, Canada has many areas of higher productivity. The reasons have been discussed, but the most probable reason is that the higher financial pressures have forced Canadian farms to be more efficient. Secondly, there is a larger proportion of herds that sell weaned pigs in Canada, with their income directly tied to sow productivity.

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  • 2008

    Benchmarking in Dangerous Times

    Benchmarking is a term and a methodology that has been abused, misused and yet, in spite of our faults, it has survived and provided useful guidance to the industry. The etymology of benchmarking is interesting:

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