Identifying Measurement Targets to Improve Production Efficiency

Matt Culbertson, PhD

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.

A successful organization may choose to highlight multiple layers of KPI that allow meaningful measurement at slat-level production facilities and then ultimately roll-up to systemwide business performance. For example, the industry has long utilized sow herd recording systems, such as PigCHAMP, to collect information and evaluate performance metrics for breeding herds such as pigs weaned per mated female year. However, for opportunity review and specific intervention at the farm level, routine KPI must be more detailed and include the driving components such as breed numbers, conception rates, total born and total born conversion rates. In addition, the post-weaning phase of production, driven by the large impact it has on system profitability, has become increasingly well measured in multiple production systems globally. This tracking typically allows for producers to understand performance on distinct groups of growing animals for relatively crude measures such as growth rate, feed efficiency and livability

In many of the more mature markets the between and within system variation in some of the historically most prevalent KPIs has tightened, not surprising in a competitive environment. This has driven the continued evolution of KPIs towards new opportunity areas and an increased understanding of drivers that influence commercial financial success versus some that may simply target maximum biological performance. Some examples of these new KPIs by production phase might include:


  • % of gilts farrowed that enter the breeding facility
  • Retention of breeding females by parity and/or through Parity 3
  • Lbs/Kg of feed per weaned pig (including gilt development / gilt pool)
  • Weaned pigs / employee / year
  • Lifetime pigs weaned / gilt introduced


  • Carcass weight per day of age
  • Caloric feed efficiency on carcass weight basis
  • Medication use and cost by phase
  • Lbs/kg of carcass per pig space (or sq ft, etc.) per year


  • Lbs/kg per shackle per year
  • Carcass weight target and carcass weight variation
  • Realized saleable primal value %
  • % of product into target higher margin categories

A common quote in this area is “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. The combination of performance recording systems and access to good sources of objective benchmark data have increasingly allowed motivated managers and systems to identify opportunities to drive performance improvement. A desire to link biological performance to financial results in new and innovative ways will continue to allow early movers to be the first to capture those potential benefits and help demonstrate the path to future success to our increasingly global industry.

- Matt Culbertson, PhD
Matt Culbertson, PhD, serves as Global Director for Product Development and Technical Services for PIC.