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AHDB Pork Blog

Cost of production – you have the power by Carol Davis

Carol Davis, AHDB Farm EconomicsWhat is the one thing, other than the weather, you can’t you control as a pig producer? Price. Therefore, concentrate on what you can control – your cost of production (COP).

If I knew what drives your COP I would tell you but my fairy godmother wand has run out of batteries, so it is up to you to identify and build on your strengths and address your weaknesses.

Encouragingly, COP is affected by lots of things you can change. Each of them needs continual monitoring and review and, for those who believe they have it all sorted, one thing I have learned in 40 plus years in agriculture, is you are never too old to learn. Improving your COP requires attention to detail.

Pigs weaned per sow per year; if you don’t have them you can’t sell them. This overall measure has three key elements: litters per sow per year, pigs born alive per litter and pre-weaning mortality. They are all affected by underlying factors, including successful AI and good husbandry.


Feed is important, but there is a significant variation in the performance of rearers and finishers for daily liveweight gain (DLWG) and feed conversion ratio (FCR). Is your feed fit for purpose? Price isn’t everything, so ensure you have the right product for the right job. If you’re home-mixing, are ingredients analysed so you mix the rations your nutritionist devised? Each co-product batch can vary and finding pigs haven’t grown is ‘closing the door after the horse has bolted’ and costly.


Prevention is better, and less costly, than cure. Proper health and biosecurity plans are essential, including appropriate vaccine and antibiotic use, correct dosage and timing – always involve your vet.


Collect the right data and use software that captures your records and produces meaningful reports. It can mean updating systems and perhaps investing in new technology. Running old software on even older computers takes the fun out of everything.

Look at your market specification: what does your buyer want? Weight? Probe? What are the penalties?

Strengths and weaknesses

Identify weaknesses, which could be general problems and/or individual animals, due to genetics, systems, housing, ventilation, people, equipment, cleaning or pigs out of specification.

Identify strengths – build on these, and perhaps roll them out across the business. They could be good genetics, particular housing or specific people.  


Plan any capital investments so that you identify why, when, where and how. Don’t just do what you have always done, seek advice. Budget for the investment, you may need to save in your ‘piggy bank’.

Good relationships with your people are key to success. Whether employees or family members, listen, ask for ideas, train, reward, keep them motivated – in a positive way. Say thank you.

You can do something about all the points above irrespective of market price. The AHDB website is full of helpful information. Grab a factsheet, watch a training video, fine-tune your system. Our Knowledge Exchange Managers are here to help.

Get moving, get measuring and lower your COP. Make sure you are efficient and lean – that’s your business, not you (others can help if you need weight-watching advice!).

By AHDB Pork at 26 Apr 2019, 08:51 AM


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