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Evidence-based pig production

This framework uses data, people and technology to drive financially sustainable pig operations

Fredrik Sandberg, PhD, vice-president of health and nutrition, Furst-McNess Company.

Raising livestock as part of a business can be challenging in volatile global markets. Many external and internal factors affect income and expenses.

In this environment, how can you most effectively control your system through captured data and the key people who operate your enterprise? The best approach, I argue, is to track performance and profitability in as close to real time as possible and to be able to forecast future performance and revenue.

I will describe a general, and on the surface very simple, framework for setting your farming operation up for a powerful and robust system using data and key influencers for your business. The system is simple in principle, but as you sit down and review every aspect in light of your farm, it requires significant commitment.

We can describe this system as “evidence-based pig production” following the model of evidence-based medicine. In the latter system, research or data is “pre-screened” by specialists in a given field, before your family doctor uses this information to decide on medical treatments.

The key paradigm is organized data and information, which is then reviewed by an expert, before the producer uses any of that information to make management decisions. This approach is hard because it requires discipline. In animal production, we also need input from many individuals with a range of expertise, including veterinarians, geneticists, nutritionists, risk managers, ventilation experts, farm staff, bankers and audit managers, to make successful and fast management decisions.

The stakeholders in your business

In modern agriculture, we seek financial sustainability and stability. For your business to be stable and capable of withstanding either internal (e.g. disease outbreak) or external (e.g. trade embargo effects on meat prices) pressures, effective communication and teamwork are critical.

What we see with many successful producers is that they quickly and effectively share relevant information with the different stakeholders in their businesses. Stakeholders include nutritionists, veterinarians, bankers, genetic suppliers, farm staff, growers and feed mill staff.  Producers and stakeholders need to share, review and interpret this information on a frequent basis. The timeline for review varies by parameter – daily for mortality, for example, and monthly or quarterly for close out.

Disseminating this information brings it into the light and allows the stakeholders (i.e. people who RELY on the stability and success of your business) to provide critical input to make improvements in the operation. The key, and greatest challenge, is the timeliness of this dissemination.

Next week, I will discuss how to know and maximize the genetic potential of your herd.

Dr. Fredrik Sandberg is the vice-president of health and nutrition for the Furst-McNess Company. He has primary oversight of the company’s swine feeding program, as well as its research and development program, with a heavy focus on antibiotic-free and ractopamine-free feeding programs for swine, poultry and ruminants. Sandberg completed his PhD at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, with a focus on computational modeling of growth and nutrient requirements in swine during periods of health and disease. 

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