Pig farmers should look at all methods available to them to cut down the costs of production, according to Ciaran Carroll, Head of the Pig Development Department in Teagasc.

This advice comes following a further 4c/kg drop in pig prices last week, with prices currently sitting at 135-140c/kg, he said.

At current market prices many pig farmers are losing money as Teagasc figures show that the current cost of production is 158c/kg.

The Teagasc representative urged farmers to cull under productive and thin sows as a method of improving the viability of the business during a low price period.

This is important, he said, as cull sows only account for 2% of the sales income on the average pig farm, but thin sows are capable of eating a large volume of expensive feed.

Carroll said that these sows should be culled following weaning due to their very low feed conversion rate. Cull sows will eat seven kg of feed for every one kg of carcass weight.

Another area where pig farmers could make potential savings during a difficult price period is by monitoring the number of replacement gilts kept on farm.

Some farmers a large gilt pool. Farmers should aim to keep 12% of the total sow herd as gilts, but many farms have rates of 15-20%.

By reducing the number of gilts from 15% to 12% of the total sow herd farmers can save €4,500 on feed each year, he said.

Carroll also said that improving the feed efficiency of the pigs by 0.1 unit can also led to a significant cost saving. This can lead to a cost saving of €2 for each pig produced on farm.

The Teagasc specialist also said that significant savings can also be made by focusing on non-feed costs.

“Broken heat pads will use 20% more energy than fully functioning pads. This is also the case for dirty fans which will use 20% more energy than fans which are cleaned regularly,” he said.

Despite the poor pig prices at the current time, Carroll said that only a small number of farmers are considering cutting back their sow size to deal with the current low price being paid for pigmeat.

Managing finance

Pig farmers should know their debt levels and prepare a cash flow analysis for the upcoming year, he said.

This will allow pig farmers to see clearly if they are going to be in financial and cash flow trouble. If this is an issue the farmer should consult with their bank immediately, he said.

Carroll said that a number of options may be available to pig farmers. These may include a moratorium on debt or increased overdraft facilities.

However, he said that these facilities come at a cost and farmers should not jump straight into these arrangements without looking into all the available options.