Practical On-Farm Use of Benchmarking

Benchmarking helps us compare and improve important production parameters.

By Dave Wade

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. Although I believe most of our time should be spent becoming better than we were yesterday, it's also imperative that we spend some time understanding and taking note regarding the performance of our competitors.

The beauty of the PigCHAMP benchmarking report is that participants all use the same sow-recording system. This provides the basis for consistent interpretation of the information; we don't have to question the math behind the numbers because the results are calculated by the same method. When we hear reports or see performance data from other operations that aren't using PigCHAMP, we spend too much time trying to understand the math behind the result. More often than not, it can lead to doubt regarding the performance of other operations, if they aren't using the same recording system.

After each quarterly benchmarking report is received, we compare the performance of each of our sow farms and record whether or not they're in the top 50 percent in each of eight categories we believe are most critical.

The categories we use for comparison are Pigs/Mated Female/Year, Repeat Services Percent, Farrowing Rate, Farrowing Index, Born Alive/Litter, Stillbirths Percent, Pre-Weaning Mortality and Lactation Length. For instance, if the mean Farrowing Rate is 83 percent on the benchmark report and the farm we are looking at has an actual farrowing rate of 84 percent, it would rank in the top 50 percent. However, if the farm isn't ahead of the mean, the farm receives an "x" in the category.

Our goal is to have all of our farms in the top 50 percentile of Pigs/Mated Female/Year. The other rankings for Repeat Services, Farrowing Rate, Farrowing Index, Born Alive/Litter, Stillbirths, Pre-Weaning Mortality and Lactation Length are simply used to identify trends of what might be preventing us from reaching the top 50 percent of Pigs/Mated Female/Year.

For example, if most of the farms that are below the top 50 percent in Pigs/ Mated Female /Year also have an "x" in the column labeled Pre-Weaning Mortality, indicating that they are below the top 50 percent of the category Pre-Weaning Mortality, then we have probably identified an area we can work on to move our farms into the top 50 percentile of Pigs/Mated Female/Year. I also take note that if we have over half of our farms with an "x" in a category, it's an area we should work on to improve in all our farms across the company.

The use of PigCHAMP Benchmarking reports allows us to improve our operations by intensively comparing and improving categories we believe are critical in attaining our goal of having all of our sow farms in the top 50 percent of Pigs/Mated Female/Year.

Editor's Note:Dave Wade is vice-president of operations for The HANOR Company of Wisconsin, LLC. Family of Companies.