Managing your nutrition program in challenging times

Posted on September 28, 2012 in Swine Performance
Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater

By Nate Brown

Potential $40-per-head losses and possible shortages of staple feed ingredients have forced hog producers to ask some very difficult questions. Do you sell hogs at light market weights to conserve feed? Do you feed an array of alternative ingredients to stretch corn and soybean meal (SBM)? Do you tie up capital and take physical position of corn and SBM to make sure you have enough to last until next fall? The list of questions you face goes on from there. Make no mistake about it, we are seeing a combination of challenges unlike any before.  While there is no one-size fits-all answer to these questions, here are some guidelines to consider as you navigate through these difficult issues.

Energy values of alternative ingredients matter

Certain alternative ingredients can be used to lower diet cost per ton when diet formulas are balanced on nutrient levels such as amino acids, phosphorous, etc. However, when many of these ingredients are used, the resulting diet may be substantially lower in energy than a comparable corn/SBM formulation.  This can result in poorer feed conversion, which can wipe out any feed cost savings that may have been projected based upon diet cost per ton. Many genotypes, when housed at typical stocking densities, exhibit an ADG response to higher energy diets. While this response is not as predictable as the feed conversion response, it can have an impact on market weights and overall throughput.  More on that in a moment.

Optimal market weights are a rapidly moving target

Over the last two weeks, the optimal market weight (the weight at which marginal revenue is optimized) for most packers has fluctuated 15 to 20 lb (live weight) in both directions. Quite simply, we are teetering near the edge of where the value of an extra pound of weight gain will cover the cost of feed needed to put that pound on the pig. The recent decrease in corn and SBM costs and increase in the live hog market has pushed the optimal weight back up 10 to 15 lb in most cases. Given this, it is important that your feeding program fits with your overall system goals for market weight (throughput). Making the decision now to feed a lower energy program could cost you market weight in the future. Depending on your packer’s grid, selling pigs 10 to 15 lb less (on average) than the optimal weight can cost $2 to $4 per head.

Feeding for good animal performance (but not necessarily maximum) is nearly always a smart decision

Poor ADG and F/G seem to compound problems rather than solve them. Taking shortcuts in diet formulation might seem like a good short-term solution, but unless all factors are considered, it could come back to haunt you. The Vita Plus Swine Team understands the challenges you are facing. We are committed to helping you make the best decisions given your unique circumstances. We have developed a number of tools to assist in analyzing alternative feed ingredients, optimal market weights, and other production issues. Contact your Vita Plus representative if you would like to learn more.

About the author:  Nate Brown is the swine sales manager for Vita Plus and has been with the company for the past 18 years.  He received his bachelor of science from St. John’s University in 1991.  Brown has been involved in the feed industry for 20-plus years.  His area of interest is nutrition and growth and its influence on the profits made for the producer.  Brown is an executive board member for the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, a board member for the Martin County Pork Producers Association, and a Minnesota Pork Congress committee member.  He lives in Minnesota with his wife, Sarah, and his four children: Hank, 20, Ben, 18, Zach, 16, and Gabby, 11.

Category: Feed costs
Feed ingredients
Feed quality and nutrition
Swine Performance