Hog Target Weight Calculator
Once the job of raising a hog is done, whether a profit is made
may depend on the final step: marketing. While the cost of production
is a key component of the profitability of any operation, maximizing
revenue is as important to profit as reducing the cost of production.
Revenue is lost when carcasses miss the grading grid's targets for lean yield or weight. While the value of this loss isn't itemized on the settlement statement, it can be estimated by tallying the numbers of carcasses on the statement that didn't fit into the target and calculating the resulting revenue missed. Even if the average weight and average lean yield of a group appear to hit the target, many carcasses may, in fact, lie outside it. While an average weight for a pen may seem adequate for shipping, it's important to remember that carcasses are graded and priced individually.
In herds where weights are closely monitored and hogs are shipped
weekly, the standard deviation of carcass weights should be around
4 kg, so that 66% of carcass weights fall within ±4 kg of
the average weight¹. Some grids will accommodate biweekly shipping
without penalty as long as weight is accurately monitored. With
a narrow grid, accurate weekly shipping can be very important.
The second tool for quickly determining the required shipping weight depending on the target carcass weight and DP is the Hog Target Weight Calculator (Figure 1). The target weight calculator can be used to see what carcass weight is likely to result from shipping hogs at a given live weight, or to see what effect a change in DP (which may result from extended transport times) might have on carcass weight.
Carcass quality can also be affected by handling decisions; shipping time is not the time to take chances with the investment already made in a finished animal. See the publications Should This Pig Be Transported? and Caring for Compromised Pigs, available from the Ontario Farm Animal Council (www.ofac.org).
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After pigs have reached the minimum weight demanded by the grading grid, consider whether it is profitable to continue to feed to higher weights. This is particularly important when feed cost is high, and even more so if market prices are also low. It also assumes that the main driver is not the need to free up the facilities for incoming animals.
To make an informed decision, producers will need good information on the feed conversion ratio (FCR) of the herd over the relevant weight range (in addition to the change in lean yield discussed earlier). This is important, since conversion normally declines as animals get larger and can really only be estimated with any accuracy by measuring it in the barn. This information allows producers to make incremental calculations of the added cost of feed (the marginal feed cost) and the added value of the carcass (the marginal return), and determine the point where profit peaks.
Deciding when to move light pigs remaining at the end of a batch is particularly relevant to all-in/all-out systems. Is it worthwhile keeping these pigs, or moving them to a separate facility for finishing? Moving them helps with efforts to reduce disease transmission to newcomers if the space is needed for incoming pigs. Nevertheless, are the economics valid?
Good record-keeping will provide the answer here, as elsewhere - are these pigs "tail-enders" because they got a slow start, or because they are poor performers and trying to get them to finish weight is throwing more feed away? They may cost more than they are worth, especially if they tie up space. The best strategy may be to arrange to ship on two separate grids to accommodate another degree of variation in the herd.
The information required for making good marketing decisions and
the advice and tools for interpreting the information are all available.
Putting it all together is worth the effort.
Providing carcasses that fit into the highest possible index score on the relevant grading grid is the goal. Shipping weight is under the producer's control, as is lean yield, to some extent, if the producer understands the factors determining it. The producer can also control pork quality - as affected by handling and transport - and pre-shipping feeding strategies. The potential impact of managing these factors on revenue is very great.