Today’s high hog prices dictate a completely different mindset from a few months ago when an oversupply of hogs and low prices required cost-cutting measures.
“It’s gone from trying to save and get by to now where hogs are highly profitable so you can’t afford to miss,” reported Jordan Graham, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minnesota.
“The margins are still fairly tight with corn prices as high as they are,” he added. “But when we miss out on selling a hog that is worth double what it was last year, it really hurts.”
Instead of looking at ways to cut costs, Graham says it’s time to reconsider health programs that weren’t economical at last year’s market prices. Some of those interventions may more than pay for themselves at current prices.
Shore-up vaccine strategies
“Reevaluate your vaccine strategies to make sure you are protected as much as possible from disease breaks” he said. “If you cut vaccinations now at the cost of a disease break or missing live born, then we are really shooting ourselves in the foot.
“If producers are partial-dosing, the savings gain might not be worth it if there’s any lapse in protection,” he added. “An example is ileitis prevention. Partial-dosing is done in the industry, and this would be a year where it probably does not pay because you run a higher risk of a breakdown in immunity.”
In addition, producers may also want to explore feed-additive options to improve feed conversion and average daily gain.
Treatment during outbreaks
“Being early and proactive on health challenges is extremely important this summer,” Graham said. “It’s almost certain any intervention that helps reduce mortality will pay for itself.”
For example, more aggressive treatment during a disease outbreak will likely be cost-effective.
“Take the opportunity while markets are good to take a second look at some capital investments that might have been cost prohibitive in the past,” Graham said.
For example, a sow-farm filtration system to minimize disease breaks may be a good investment right now.
Another potential investment area is adding space to your farm for proper gilt development. Graham said this will help increase total-born output of gilts by allowing adequate disease and housing acclimation. Gilts are the future of the farm, and investing in doing gilts right will pay dividends.
Improvements in biosecurity to reduce disease outbreaks also may be worth the investment now, he added.
A couple of options include adding ultraviolet boxes for supply entry and building a compost facility to move away from rendering vehicles on the property.
This also may be the time to make capital improvements to truck washes. One example is adding thermo-assisted drying.
Taking advantage of the current market situation to make improvements now in herd health can pay off in the future when the market tightens up again, because as this past year has shown, markets can change fast.
“Last year I said we’d have low prices due to ample supply of hogs, and that’s turned on a dime this year,” Graham said.