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Developing a pork production plan

Pork production is like any other business; without a clear plan in place it can lack direction and not reach its financial potential. Developing a pork production plan is one way to make sure your business reaches its potential.

Benefits of a pork production plan

A pork production plan can help you:

  • make the best use of piggery pens, buildings, paddocks and shelters
  • set targets for the number of pigs sold, pigs weaned, litters born and sows mated per week
  • avoid under or overstocking
  • compare marketing opportunities and determine optimum marketing weight for your business.

Steps to create a pork production plan

Step 1: Calculate how many pigs you can accommodate

The number of pigs you can put in each pen also depends on your pen design, the health status of your herd, temperature and ventilation control, and the need to minimise re-mixing of pigs. However, stocking densities must meet the pig welfare code.

  • Work out the space available in the weaner pens through to the finisher pens.
  • Draw a floor plan of the grower sheds with the measurements for all the pens.
  • Calculate the living space in each pen and the total space available, excluding space taken up by feeders.
  • Determine the target number of pigs that can be put through the grower spaces each week to keep the sheds fully occupied, with the pigs sold at the most profitable weight. You will need to meet the space requirements stated in the Model code of practice for the welfare of animals: pigs (pig welfare code) or higher allowances, if demanded by the pig buyer.

The same principles apply to free-range systems regarding the number and size of available paddocks.

In addition, for both indoor and outdoor piggeries, you must meet the conditions of the environmental authority to operate.

Step 2: Set breeding herd targets

Once you've worked out how many pigs you can house or run in paddocks, you can then work out your breeding herd's targets.

You should:

  • determine a target number of litters per week—based on the target number of weaners and the average litter-size weaned
  • determine a mating target—based on the target number of litters per week and the average farrowing rate of the herd
  • ensure your mating program is planned well in advance so you have the right balance of sows, gilts and boars, allowing for the use of purchased semen. This is the ultimate goal of a production plan.

Step 3: Balance the breeding and grower herd production

Make sure you have enough space for pigs born from your breeding herd. You may need to adjust the plan if your breeding and growing facilities are not balanced. The production plan will identify any bottlenecks in the system and you can use it to consider alternative options.

Review and update your plan regularly, particularly in the early stages. Actual production must be checked against the targets set for the business.

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