Genesus Swine Feeding

Swine feeding is a complex science. For maximum success the pork producer must follow a scientific feeding program based upon the nutritional needs incurred in each stage of the pig’s life and how those needs are affected by the environment. These concepts require the producer to define status of the herd. For example, the lean gain potential, the existing climatic conditions, and the health status of the herd must be evaluated. Adjustments are then based on these factors when defining the specific requirements for each stage of the life cycle from the nursing pig through the breeding herd.

The key. Ultra modern research facilities that utilize automatic feed recording equipment. A research protocol that includes bi-weekly weighing, live pig ultrasound testing, and packing plant carcass evaluation. The goal maximize Genesus customer profitability through lower cost of gain, optimum growth and meat quality.

What does optimal FCR really mean?
Derek Petry, Ph.D.

As a genetic supplier, one of the first topics discussed in any meeting is feed conversion ratio (FCR).  While a very easy value to calculate, it is important to know the relationship between FCR and profitability. There are numerous factors that can contribute to the pigs FCR including: nutrition (i.e. pellets vs. mash, grind size, ingredients, etc.), housing (i.e. type of feeder, stocking density, temperature control, etc.), health, and genetics.

A paper written by Dr. Dean Boyd titled “Integrating Science into Practice and Getting it Right” determined the 10 most important metrics for profitability of the top 25% of firms (See Table 1; Boyd, 2012).  Interestingly, FCR was ranked number 10, and the most profitable firms actually had worse caloric feed conversion ratio than the average firm. Thus, optimal FCR was more related to profitability than lowest FCR.

1 Agri Stats Inc., March 2011 report for January – December 2010 (N = 68 firms)
2Advantage = computed to be the fold-difference of the Top 25% over/under the average
3 Item 9, days to market, not shown but was equivalent for the Average and Top 25%.

The question really becomes, if we are trying to drive FCR as low as possible, what are we giving up and are we really driving profitability in the right direction?  There are several ways to improve FCR, including, but not limited to: 1. Selecting for faster growth while holding feed intake constant, 2. Selecting for lower feed intake while holding growth constant, 3. Selecting for faster growth and for lower feed intake.  Each scenario has outcomes that may or may not be favorable with other production parameters. 

Genesus has focused on maintaining feed intake at status quo and selecting for pigs that grow faster.  This allows the Genesus pig to improve on FCR, yet handle stressors (i.e. diseases challenge, out of feed events, management, etc.) it encounters.  Understanding how to feed an animal to its appetite and nutritional needs is critical to profitability.  Since most genetic providers focus on FCR as a main trait they have pushed down the intake of the animal, and these can’t be fed the same way as animals that have a higher appetite.  To get the best performance you must feed to the appetite and nutritional needs of that line and not to the lowest FCR, otherwise, as we have found, we are overfeeding things like lysine, energy, phosphorus and causing non-optimal performance and costing a lot of money (more detail to follow in Part 2 of this technical report).

Is clear that cost per pound of gain is an important piece of profitability as feed represents 65-75% of the total cost of producing a slaughter pig.