Marketing hogs is one of the most essential steps in trying to capture profits on any finishing group. In recent months, the volatile markets have left virtually no money to be made. However, lowering your sort loss during this critical time can reduce your losses and prepare you to effectively market groups when there is little money to be made. Whether you have long-term experience marketing groups of finishing hogs or are just getting started, there is always room for improvement.
Several key steps can help you gauge the weight of your current group and how quickly the first-cut is ready to go. First, keep track of your feed budget as the pigs are growing. Normally, pigs are transitioned from phase to phase by either a set number of days on each phase of feed or physically appraising the average weight of the group and determining when to switch them to the next diet. Either way, this budget will give you a benchmark of how quickly your pigs are growing. Additionally, tracking the amount of feed consumed divided by the number of pigs in the barn will evaluate your intake per pig per day. With this quick calculation, you can easily track the average daily gain of your pigs, and estimate when they are approaching market weight.
To accurately measure the group’s weight, use either a floor scale in an alley or an individual scale to sample the barn. Whether your barn is setup with small pens of 30-35 pigs or large pens of 100+, mark and sort out what appears to be the heaviest few pigs from each pen. This will help keep track of your weights throughout the barn and when the first-cut is ready. Again, this requires some effort, yet weighing them periodically will provide accurate pig weights, versus relying on the “eyeball test” which can sometimes be 20-30 pounds off.
When your finishing pigs are at market weight and a load is scheduled, take your time when marking the 160-170 head that are set to go. It is critical to get each of the heaviest pigs out the door first, to prevent your heaviest pigs from being on feed for too many days and lowering your profit. Plus, these overweight hogs will ultimately end up with carcass weights that will receive a deduction.
Keep the following points in mind to best manage your marketing process:
• Determine your target weight.
• Know how much the pigs can vary from that target weight.
• Keep track of your pigs’ growth well before they are approaching market weights.
• Have an action plan of who is in charge of setting up loads with your processor.
• Designate someone to take their time marking the pigs for the load.
• Load the pigs that are marked, if one gets by that was not marked, take your time to return that pig to their pen.
If the marketing process does not go smoothly for you, or you don’t feel confident about your approach and you are searching for help, your Sioux Nation Ag Center Swine Team offers marketing services. We will do our part in setting up your marketing plan to optimize your profits.