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.

From reproductive practices upstream to market needs downstream, the pork production cycle is, at its core, a series of causal events where one decision precipitates another decision at another point in the process. If we were to visually represent the inter-reliance on decision making of the grow-finish side of things, we might see it as a Venn diagram with overlapping congruencies (i.e., genetics, herd health, etc.) present in the three spheres.

Three Spheres

That is why, keeping in mind this cause-and-effect relationship we see throughout the process of farrowing, growing, finishing and marketing pigs, PigCHAMP set out to learn from the people who deal with the impacts of decision making on a daily basis. The following information is compiled from the results of a recent survey extended to PigCHAMP customers who are involved in the grow-finish aspect of pork production. The survey sample included producers who average less than 10,000 finishers per year up through operations with 100,000-200,000 animals finished per year.

What do you identify as the biggest obstacle coming to you from the reproductive side?

To this question, respondents cited the quality of pigs at weaning, various gestation crate issues, overall herd health, breeding management, death losses, feed, and disease concerns as the most notable hurdles they see as barriers to a seamless, integrated chain of production.

Which decisions upstream from you seem to have the most positive impact on your operation?

For grow-finishers, decisions impacting genetic improvements to breeding stock, a greater focus on research, noticeable genetic alterations and choices affecting piglet survival rates appear to be the most relevant in terms of having a direct impression on their operation.

“the pork production cycle is, a series of causal events where one decision precipitates another”

What would you identify as the biggest obstacle in bringing your animals to market?

Regarding difficulties presented on the other end of the spectrum, respondents identified that the ability to maintain market share, ongoing environmental concerns, herd health worries, producing consistently heavy carcasses, minimizing losses, feed conversion and feed quality all play a role in marketing animals.

What decisions made downstream from you have the most positive impact on your operation?

In bringing finished pigs to market, growers indicated marketing contracts, maintaining a quality workforce, a decrease in the sow herd, culling older parity sows and low birth sows, and diligence in dealing with the small, daily practices in the production process as providing a positive influence.

Which day-to-day decisions seem to have the most noticeable long-term effect on you?

Respondents felt that everyday decisions made on the reproductive side of the operation, as well as overall herd health choices, operation management tactics, thoroughness and consistency in breeding and thriving to wean higher numbers of pigs as the most likely factors affecting their long-term outlook.

In your estimation, which decisions you make in your Grow-Finish operation have the most impact on decisions made on the reproductive and market sides?

When asked to identify the effect their own choices have, respondents identified items of importance as how they use genetics (having the right genetic packages for meat production), their choice of packer, the market weight of pigs to hit correct cells on grid and the purchasing of breeding stock as F1 gilts to ensure all market hogs are salable.

What do you think? Do these same factors play a role in your decision making? Join the discussion now. Visit
www.pigchamp.com, take the survey
and see the updated results.