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Offset hog feed costs with efficient production

Looking to offset higher feed costs in your hog operation? You're not the only one, with corn and soybean meal prices hitting record highs. But instead of looking at alternative feed sources, consider working to improve the efficiency of your current feed, says University of Missouri Extension swine nutritionist Marcia Shannon. 

In addition to the need for proper storage for the alternative feed, there would also be nutritional issues to consider, potentially making those alternatives somewhat inefficient. “Any of the alternatives, whether it is peanut meal, rice, cereal grains or other byproducts, are going to be much higher in fiber and lower in energy. So the diet might be cheaper but you are going to have to feed more of it,” Shannon said. “What I want producers to look at is more fine-tuning of their feeding.”

Shannon says marketing at lower weights is also a huge advantage in reducing costs and losses per head, and packers are helping by reducing the low-weight dock.

“With $7.50 corn it might cost you an extra $5.75 to feed that hog another 10 pounds, and with a $78 market price you’re only going to get $2 back,” she said. “So you are going to lose $3 a head just by taking that pig an extra 10 pounds. If you add 50 pounds, you’re going to multiply that fourfold.”

Lighter market weights for hogs were starting to be seen this past August, with producers marketing hogs about 10 pounds lower. Shannon thinks they could drop another 10 pounds and stop more of the red ink in hog production.

Producers can also improve feed efficiency by using synthetic amino acids. Traditionally, pork producers fed three pounds per ton of synthetic lysine across all phases of production, Shannon said. Today, however, high inclusion rates of synthetic amino acids may be more economical. 

“Research has shown that we can feed 4 to 6 pounds of synthetic lysine per ton, although at those levels you need to add some synthetic threonine and synthetic methionine,” Shannon said. “Those two are relatively cheap in cost now, so when you are getting up there at 200 pounds you definitely need to be feeding 4 to 4 1/2 pounds of synthetic lysine. It’s much cheaper and a more economical least-cost diet than feeding 3 pounds per ton.”

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