Heavier carcase weights- what’s the cost?
Clean pig carcase weights have been higher this year. In quarter one, weights in the APP sample averaged 85.11kg, compared to 83.69kg a year ago. How has this been achieved, and what was the cost?
Why are pigs finishing heaver?
The latest physical performance figures from Agrosoft show that average daily liveweight gain (DLWG) at the finishing stage declined from the 12 months ended December 2018 to the 12 months ended March 2019. As these are rolling averages, this shows that finishing pigs were gaining less weight each day early this year, compared to early last year.
If pigs are gaining less weight per day, then time in the finishing unit must have increased, to enable pigs to reach a heavier finishing weight.
Importantly, the feed conversion ratio remained stable from the 12 months ended December 2018 to the 12 months ended March 2019. This indicates that feed efficiency in quarter one was similar to early last year.
So, pigs were converting feed into weight gain with the same efficiency, but gaining less weight per day. This tells us that less feed was fed each day. Finishing feed was more expensive in Q1 2019 than Q1 2018, so perhaps producers were more cautious about usage.
Are heavier weights cost-efficient?
In the first quarter of this year, it cost approximately £74 to finish a pig (35kg- 112kg). If pigs had been reared and finished in the same manner as early last year*, the cost would have been £70.
Of course, producers receive a greater return for a heavier carcase. This year, the average return per carcase was around £63/head, a loss of £11. Rearing pigs in the same manner as last year would have generated a return of £59/head, still a loss of £11.
So, it seems that the extra return the heavier pigs have achieved this year has been entirely absorbed by higher costs. This is particularly due to higher feed usage and more days to finish. Building costs rise as fewer pigs can pass through a unit each year.
Of course, individual producer costs vary and some will find profitability improves by reaching for higher weights, and others will find it worsens. Our estimations are based on new building costs and may be different from current costs on some farms.
Monitoring production costs is important to ensure any changes in practice are not negatively affecting profitability. To explore your own production costs, there are calculators on the main AHDB website.
*Daily Liveweight Gain, Feed Conversion Ratio, and Average Carcase weights as in Q1 2018, all other factors as in Q1 2019