The Influence of Pigchamp in Swine Production in Latin Countries
By Dr. Martha A. Acosta
Editor’s note: 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.
Please give us some background on your experience working with pork producers.
I have been fortunate to observe closely the evolution of Latin American swine production for over 30 years, also the parallel evolution of software for swine management. My professional work mainly has been focused on promoting the use of record-keeping in Swine Businesses established in Latin American countries. It was in the early 80s when PigCHAMP was developed at the University of Minnesota. Its main purpose was to serve as a platform to collect data for research. The “CHAMP” part of its name is an acronym for Computerized Health and Management Program. I was involved with PigCHAMP when it was released in 1985 and promoted by the University of Minnesota and the College of Veterinary Medicine. The program was quickly accepted by swine technicians in many parts of the world.
As PigCHAMP expanded into more parts of the world, it was translated into many languages. I made sure Spanish for Latin American countries was one of them. Driven by a strong interest in improving pork profitability, PigCHAMP established a strong presence in all Latin American countries; as well as in Spain and Portugal. PigCHAMP’s acceptance in the industry, is due in large part to the number of graduate students who have studied at universities in the United States of America. Since 1985, I have been helping Spanish-speaking producers understand where they have opportunities for production efficiency, and PigCHAMP programs have been the cornerstone of these efforts. In 2009 we integrated BLUP Repro and GramBlup genetic software developed by Dr. John Mabry from Iowa State University. From the very beginning of my career, I have promoted education programs that will allow users to see the total picture.
“My ultimate goal is to guide our users to apply simple procedures to convert information into knowledge”
How have you seen production change over the years and how has technology impacted this change?
Receptivity to educational activities has increased over the years, and there is a much better use of our computer programs. I have stressed to producers that the information generated must be continuously audited and evaluated. Then the producers are ready to use the information for daily management of the farm. Once we have accomplished this, monitoring performance and the establishment of productivity targets should be the next tasks.
Describe how you would typically work with a customer in Latin/South America.
The services we provide to our users include training, technical support, individual assessment of the farm, benchmarking and customer service. It is an “all inclusive” approach, where the user has access to a program of continuing education programs. Very soon we will be incorporating the use of farm simulators. I like to emphasize the importance of distributing filtered data within each swine business in a format that is best suited to each type of personnel. Different types of information must be presented differently to ensure the information’s understanding and usability. My ultimate goal is to guide our users to apply simple procedures to convert information into knowledge.
Maximizing efficacy is an ongoing process it never ends. Every day new challenges emerge and information has become vital in the swine industry. A company with little or no information will eventually disappear. I always promote that producers seeks to determine what the most important factors are that influence their profitability, and I encourage them to focus on those factors, especially the ones that come from feeding, housing, health and human resources.
For example, the swine diseases such as PRRS, PED, CIRCOVIRUS are causing significant losses in productivity. If a disease substantially reduces the profitability then the goal should be to control the disease and work to eradicate it if possible. There are still countries in Latin America that are free of these diseases; the challenge now is to continue to be free. In my opinion these countries certainly are producing pigs profitably. So far, Brazil and Argentina are free of PRRS and PED viruses.
Do your customers have an interest in Benchmarking?
I have worked very hard in the last 10 years training PigCHAMP users to take advantage of the capabilities of the software to create multi-farm reports, which allow them to establish an internal benchmarking, independently of the size of the enterprise. PigCHAMP also publishes the external Benchmarking of swine enterprises, where hundreds of users participate. I encourage users of PigCHAMP to participate in this Benchmarking – it is an excellent way to compare oneself to other producers.
Why do you feel your customers should participate in benchmarking?
To maximize business productivity and efficacy our users need to participate in both productivity and financial benchmarking. It is important to look closely at the cost of production and profitability of the swine business. Swine producers need to be alert and see what the best producers in the world are doing. The top producers with numbers in piglets born per litter 14.55 or 26.63 weaned piglets per sow per year reported in the PigCHAMP Benchmarking 2012 do not exactly guarantee the profitability of the company.
This table (shown above) shows some of the key performance drivers reported by Agroceres PIC in Brazil in the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 in order to observe the reproductive potential of the top herds (Upper 10 Percentile).
How would you compare the productivity of pork production operations in Latin/South America with those in North America?
The Latin swine industry is well informed and its evolution follows the same patterns as those of the U.S. and Canadian swine farms. The farm size is growing and the number of swine farms is declining. More data is required to help a healthy growth of farms and farm population. In summary, the information culture in Latin countries has been improving. More than 80% of our users do internal Benchmarking with PigCHAMP, at least 20% of them are involved in external Benchmarking. The countries with better productivity are Brazil, Argentina and Colombia. It will be very important to continue working extensively to convince pork producers in Latin countries that it is worthwhile participating in the benchmark program – it will impact their bottom line. With more than 5 million sows in Latin Swine farms, swine producers need a substantial participation in 2014 PigCHAMP Benchmarking.
DR. MARTHA A. ACOSTA
Dr. Martha A. Acosta was born and raised in Sonora, Mexico. She received her DVM degree at the University of Guadalajara in 1970. From 1968 until 1973, she worked as full time professor at the University of Guadalajara, teaching Veterinary Anatomy, Surgery and Bacteriology. She funded the Laboratory Animal Department and the Leptospirosis Reference Center for the University of Guadalajara. In parallel she also served with the National Network of Diagnostics Laboratories. From 1973 to 1980, she worked for Banrural a Mexican government financial institution in charge of many swine projects in the north and northwest of Mexico. From 1980-1983 she worked in her MS and PhD at Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University. Since 1983 she had developed and directed Sis-Pro Inc. in the USA, and other five other companies in several Latin American countries.