Using Production Data to Make Decisions

By Ron Ketchem and Mark Rix

Swine Management Services, LLC (SMS) is owned by Ron Ketchem and Mark Rix. The company is involved in production analysis, financial analysis, employee training, farm consulting, bookkeeping and has a data entry bureau using PigCHAMP. They currently work with producers, primarily in the USA and Canada. Their mission statement is to provide “information solutions” for the swine industry.

SMS has developed a proprietary Farm Benchmarking database of over 1.4 million sows from farms ranging in size from 200 to 10,000+ sows. This information was used to provide the following analysis which was first presented at the 2013 Banff Swine Seminar.


Tables 1 and 2 are summaries of data ending 2012. It is very interesting to see the variation in production levels with farms less than 15 pigs weaned / mated female / year to 30+. There were 16 farms at 30+ pigs weaned / mated female / year the last 52 weeks. We have been tracking production numbers since 2005 with pigs weaned / mated female / year average going from 21.28 to 24.31 pigs for an increase of +3.03 increase, and with the Top 10% going from 24.72 to 28.60. Pigs weaned / female farrowed from 9.17 to 10.55 pigs with the Top 10% weaning 11.77 pigs.

SMS performance data 52 weeks average 2012 summary

SMS performance data 52 weeks average 2012 summary

What are some of the Key Indicators that drive increases in Pigs Weaned / Mated Female / Year?

We feel they are: wean to 1st service days, farrowing rate %, total pigs born, piglet survival is 100% minus (% stillborns and % pre-weaning death loss), female death loss %, and mated female non-productive days.

What can you do to lower Wean to 1st Service Interval?

Table 3 is data from 602 farms that weaned over 20 pigs / mated female / year. The farms are sorted by Wean to 1st service interval. As you see in table 3, the lower Wean to 1st Service Interval influences pigs weaned / mated female / year, percent bred by day 7, percent repeats, farrowing rate and total pigs born. The trend line for the SMS data base has been a drop in average days for Wean to 1st service interval starting in early 2011. We feel this is probably due to more farms increasing feed intake in lactation with more farms going to automated feed drop systems or feeding females more times per day.

602 farms over 20 pigs weaned/mated female/year - ranked by wean to 1st service interval

Our suggestions on how to lower Wean to 1st Service Interval are to feed sows more aggressively in farrowing starting day one of farrowing, feed sows individually with feed hopper or reservoir in farrowing, feed weaned sows extra feed from weaning until breeding (flushing), start daily boar exposure day one sows are weaned, start heat checking sows day one after weaning and breed sows in heat, do not skip.

What influence does Farrowing Rate have on production?

Farrowing rate is a three part triangle: Female - Semen - Breeder (AI Technician). If each variable is at 90%, the farrowing rate will be about 73%. If you improve farrowing rate by 4%, production will improve by about 1.35 pigs / mated female / year. In Table 4 a set of 602 farms were sorted by farrowing rate to see if farrowing rate is a key indicator. You see farms with farrowing rate at 90+% weaned 26.10 pigs / mated female / year versus <75% at 20.40 pigs. The trend lines for improvement in farrowing rate for all farms was 5.4% starting in 2005 at 79.7% and going to 85.1% in 2012. The Top 10% farms had farrowing rate in 2012 at 90.4%.

farms sorted by farrowing rate

Our suggestions on what should be done to improve performance of Breeder (AI Technician) are to provide training and supervision over the AI Technicians, take planned breaks to prevent fatigue, record all mating information by AI technician including time of day (01-24 military time) and semen batch number. Breeding procedures should be fine tuned for each farm based on records broken down by number of services, number of matings, wean to 1st service interval, parity, day of week, hour of breeding and semen batch number.

Our suggestions on what needs to be done to influence Semen Quality are to record batch information, use a temperature gun to check temperature of semen bags on the different levels of delivery container for variation in temperature, record daily Hi/Low temperatures of semen cooler for monitoring fluctuation in temperature (which should be less than 2-3 degrees in 24 hours), set temperature for semen storage cooler temperature based on extender being used by semen provider, rotate semen at least once per day, arrange storage of semen by delivery date so older semen is used up first, and place semen storage unit in an air conditioned room in hot weather and a heated room in winter.

What influences Key Indicator Total Pigs Born?

Trend lines for the last 8 years for total pigs born for average farms were from 11.70 to 13.37 pigs with a gain of 1.67 pigs. The Top 10% farms went from 12.41 to 14.47 pigs for 2.06 more pigs. An influential number is total born for first litter gilts. The first litter total born for gilts sets the potential for lifetime production. To get P1 females off to a good start, replacement gilts need to have at least 1 recorded skip heat before breeding and, if possible, spend at least 14+ days in gestation crate pre-breeding. In farms we work with, we see gilts with at least 1 skip heat having 0.20 to 1.0+ more pigs on their first litter.

Our suggestions on how to increase Total Pigs Born are to use F1 females, develop gilts on proper rations, record at least one skip heat, expose to crate, grow to 300+ pounds, increase feed intake in lactation, increase feed intake from weaning till breeding (+2.0 lb. / day) and increase stimulation of female by Breeders (AI technicians).

What can you do to improve Piglet Survival in farrowing?

At SMS we created a new measuring term a few years ago to more accurately measure performance in farrowing. Instead of looking at stillborns % and pre-weaning death loss % separately, we combined them into one calculation called PIGLET SURVIVAL = 100% - (stillborn % + pre-weaning death loss %). We look at stillborns as potential live pigs. There are farms for a 52 week period at less than 67% Piglet Survival and a few farms over 90%.

In Table 5 you see the farms at 30+ pigs have figured out how to save the extra pigs in farrowing, with stillborns at 4.50% and pre-weaning mortality at 7.30% putting them at 88.2% Piglet Survival. For the last 8 years the SMS data base showed Piglet Survival percent peaked in 2007 at ALL at 80.2% and Top 10% at 84.5%. Since then total born has improved and Piglet Survival has declined or been flat, the average in 2012 at 79.9% and the Top 10% average at 82.0%. 13 farms have figured out how to keep the extra pigs alive with Piglet Survival over 90%.

SMS performance data from 492 farms for the last 52 weeks - 2012 summary of farms with minimum of 20 pigs weaned per mated female per year

What can you do to lower Female Death Loss?

In the SMS data base, 2012 sow death loss has averaged 7.5% with the Top 10% farms at 5.4% and the Bottom 25% farms at 8.3%. We sometimes do not see the effect of female death loss on production numbers. A change of 1% in female death loss can influence pigs / mated female / year by 0.25 pigs. So lowering female death loss by 4% equals 1.0 more pigs / mated female / year. We like to suggest you look at female death loss by parity to see when the deaths are occurring. You may be surprised to see very high percentages are from younger parity females.

Our suggestions on what you can do to lower Female Death Loss are to improve training of crew on how to spot sick or lame females, have written SOPs for how to treat sick and lame females, have your farm veterinarian provide a list of treatment procedures for sick females, keep for 12 months detailed information on each treated female (PQA Plus+) and have someone accountable for euthanizing problem females.

What needs to be done to lower Mated Female Non-productive Days?

When you look at female non-productive days, we feel there are some issues with how some farms enter gilt information. With some of the new sow software programs charging on female inventory, farms are entering gilts at breeding. So at SMS we use mated female non-productive days in our records. In a study of 66 farms in the USA and Canada, the average for mated female nonproductive days was 32.8 days with range of individual farms from 19 to 49 days. If you use $2.25 per day for open mated female the cost is an average of $73.80 / mated female / year.

Our suggestions on what needs to be done to lower Mated Female Nonproductive Days are to cull all second service returns, consider culling some older first service returns after you look at the flow of replacement gilts and cost to produce those gilts, cull non-cycling weaned sows and gilts sooner, and cull all sows that have locomotion or lameness issues.

Swine Management Services analyzes data from approximately 20% of the USA and Canada swine industry and we are committed to sharing that information with the swine industry. How does your farm compare to the information shared in the article and what can you do to improve your farm? Most of the suggestions we have laid out in this article to increase productivity will cost nothing or very little to implement and they can have a significant impact on increasing pigs weaned. One more pig weaned / mated female / year can lower the cost to produce all weaned pigs by $1.00 to $2.00.

MARK RIX / RON KETCHEM Ronald Ketchem graduated from the University of Missouri with BS in Animal Science and masters studies in Reproductive Physiology and Animal Breeding. Ron began his career with a genetics company and was there for 12 years. He then spent 15 years with a major feed company as the Area Swine Consultant providing technical support and training.
Mark Rix graduated from Iowa State University in 1973 and worked for Wilson Foods in Oklahoma City for six years. Mark joined Purina Mills in 1979 as a salesman in Nebraska and became a Swine Consultant in 1984. He then moved to North Carolina for Purina Mills as Swine Business Manager in 1988. Mark moved to Fremont, Nebraska in 1994 and helped build Swine Management Services into a full line management company that built 40 sow farms and managed 80,000+ sows.