The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is a UK levy board representing farmers, growers and others in the supply chain.
For the finishing herd, the FCR decreased by 2% from 2.86 to 2.79. The FCR for the rearing herd decreased by a more substantial 6% over this period, from 1.77 to 1.65, according to AHDB's Pig Market Weekly publication.
“Without this improvement, overall production costs would have been around 3p/kg higher (£2.30/head) (US$2.96/head) in the 12 months ending September. Rising feed prices mean this saving has become increasingly important,” said the AHDB analysts.
Focus on overall performance needed
However, the analysts stressed that while a low FCR saves on feed costs, focusing on a single KPI can cause problems in other areas.
“Careful monitoring is required to ensure that overall performance is actually improving,” they said.
Looking at the top third and top 10% of UK herds by FCR, they found these herds generally have below average daily weight gains, especially at the rearing stage.
“While these herds with a lower FCR may have reduced feed costs, some of this saving is offset by additional housing needed to keep pigs for longer, or a reduction in annual production capacity.
“Although, by minimizing fat gain, the top producers may produce a higher quality animal that attracts a better price, recouping some of these extra costs.
“Clearly, there is a balance to be struck by each individual producer.”
The AHDB has produced three online calculators to help producers calculate their own cost of pig production, farmers can calculate FCR for the rearing and finishing stage.
The analysts said that, for example, looking at Great Britain (GB) averages, average daily weight gain fell for both the rearing (-46g to 470g/day) and finishing herds (-19g to 814g/day) in the 12 months to September, compared to the 2017 average. This reduced the potential cost saving by around 0.5p/kg, they added.
The AHDB team said that it is possible to improve FCR without a drop in daily weight gain:
“In fact over the past 10 years there is no correlation between FCR and weight gain at the rearing stage, and for the finishing stage both measures have improved. Genetic developments have likely influenced these changes.”
Overall, they said regularly monitoring of cost of production can enable producers to see how changes to physical performance are affecting their production costs. This can flag up both positive areas, and areas requiring some attention, they noted.