Take-aways for a Proactive Swine Producer Looking at Benchmark Data
LOOKING AT 2018 SUMMARY DATA, WHAT INITIAL THOUGHTS DO YOU HAVE ON INDUSTRY WIDE INFORMATION AND TRENDS?
When I first looked through the summary data, the item that sticks out to me is Death Rate. In my opinion, death rate seems to be a “flashing red” concern. Thinking of this I decided to look back at previous Benchmark reports and do a comparison. Comparing data over the years showed a continuous higher trend of Death Rate in sows. As you read articles and attend seminars you hear that the industry has also recognized higher mortality rates in sows. On our farm, we moved to large pen gestation 10 years ago. Since that time, we have seen increased lameness and a noticeable uptrend in sow Death Rate.
Is lameness caused by loose housing a major contributing factor in the up-trending Death Rate in sows? How great a part do genetically influenced factors such as sturdiness of frame and leanness play in the upward trending sow Death Rate? These are questions the industry needs to explore.
How large a part does the large pen \ loose housing concept play in the lameness and resulting mortality? I wonder if we were able to compare death rate of animals, crated vs large pen, would that data confirm this? Since large pen gestation was driven by the consumer, I assume they would want to know if this change has negatively impacted the health of the animal.
AS YOU LOOK AT THIS DATA, DOES ANYTHING STAND OUT AS A (-) OR (+) IMPACT TO THE INDUSTRY?
The first item, of course, would be sow mortality as previously stated. This has a significant negative impact and it is getting worse. Next, I look at the average born alive, it is still slowly advancing higher, as well as pigs weaned per mated female per year, making a positive impact. One item that I think we would be interested in considering is the increase of average gestation length from 114 to 117. To analyze this information, we would need to look at data from farms that
do not induce, as that would skew the information. Longer gestation length can be problematic for the flow of pigs on the farm causing a negative impact. The farm could be impacted by weaning pigs at a younger age. Then you ask yourself, how does earlier weaning age for pigs affect their viability? Is this a negative impact?
WHAT VALUE DO YOU SEE IN BENCHMARK DATA?
Benchmark data helps you to look at your farm and size it up with the industry. Farm staff can be very isolated in their job due to their work schedule. They don’t have the networking opportunity within the industry to follow production trends. Our staff was shown the Benchmark data and thought it is very insightful. Benchmark gives them a better glimpse of how our farm measures up to other farms and helps to set targets. The data keeps us moving forward in the right direction.
WHAT ARE YOUR PROJECTIONS OR THOUGHTS CONCERNING THE SWINE INDUSTRY FOR NEXT YEAR?
In 2019, I think that biosecurity will become an even bigger attention getter than it has been. Farms will have a higher percent of protocols for disease prevention. All producers, not just large farms, will need to become extremely conscientious of biosecurity. Biosecurity is easier to implement in the sow farm because staff are working in the barn throughout the day. Being in the same environment throughout the day make protocols such as shower in – shower out easier to implement. On grower/finisher farms, staff activities occur throughout the day at many barns and sites. This increases the chance of infecting one farm from another farm. We need to ask ourselves: Are we doing enough? Should we change or increase our biosecurity protocols? Will we be able to shut down/cleanup/move on swiftly when faced with herd health challenges?
Bruce & Nelson Sensenig
Sensenig Farms is an Antibiotic Free (ABF) Independent farm located in Pennsylvania, producing approximately 34,000 weaned pigs per year.