Niche Swine Producer Management and Records

David Stender, Swine Field Specialist, Northwest Area

Problem Statement:

Many small independent swine producers have exited the business. To survive in the business several smaller producers have started to raise niche pork, however, cost of gain has been unknown because no data base of on-farm records exists that documents the cost of gain of a small niche farm.  Most niche operations differentiate their products by not feeding antibiotics, by raising purebreds, by feeding organic corn, by increasing space requirements, by farrowing in a pen and/or other specific management practices.  It is not known if these types of management practices are cost efficient, and if not, if there are management practices that can make them cost efficient.  In addition to this, there are beginning farmers wanting to enter niche swine production, but are reluctant because reliable cost figures are not available making it difficult to do a business plan to secure financing.

Programmatic Response: 

A four year project collecting cost of production information is in process.  Year one 10 records were completed, year two 11 records, in year 3 a major grant enabled the collection of 50 records, of which I collected 20 records.  We are in the fourth year of record collection.  A paper was published in the 2007 ISU Animal Science Research Reports, and oral presentations given to participants in small group meetings, over the Internet and at the Iowa Pork Congress.


Learning collected from participants:

Output is too low relative to number of pigs sold;  Reduced protein level to lower lean pigs;  Limited use of creep feed to later weaned pigs;  Improved feeder adjustment;  Narrowed the breeding window;  Started keeping better records;  Went to farrowing only 2 times per year;

Feed changes resulted in saved feed of $1000 in the first month alone; Feed costs decreased under changes; Reduced the cost of expensive creep feed, use sow feed now; Purchase all feed from one supplier who is able & willing to make feed to specs; Changed my particle size for better feed efficiency; Mix feed 15 minutes after grinding for better mixed distribution of feed.


Cost of production data is now available for new farms to use as a decision aid.  A software spreadsheet was developed with 2006 data to help farms make more informed decisions. 

Additionally, from the actual on-farm records and follow-up summary meetings, several management changes have been documented:

One farm realized they had been overcharged $850 just by keeping track of input data; a farm implemented management changes and dropped death lose from around 25% to an average of about 9% by implementing herd health changes and dropping production cost by $33,732 for that farm;  a farm changed the output flow resulting in a net income change of $31,889;  One farm reduced feed cost from $5,300 from workshop instruction;  Another operation reduced operating cost, for example 2004- 8 gal fuel/pig was reduced to about 2 gal in the following year, supplies and repairs were dramatically reduced, rations reworked, feeders fixed, sows fed differently, and output of pigs increased 7%.  Documented improvement after standardizing corn price, wage and market price was $22.44/cwt on 2712 cwt. resulting in $60,844 more financial income for that operation.   Another farm documented a $7/cwt improvement and a farm showed reduction in feed cost of $8,232.  


150 - Iowa Pork Industry Center

Page last updated: June 13, 2008
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