by Mike King

The adage that “you can’t get anywhere unless you know where you are” certainly rings true in pork production. Simply put, you can’t make progress at the farm level unless you know where your herd’s productivity stands.



“Continuous progress is a hallmark of U.S. pork production,” said Chris Hostetler, director of animal science for the Pork Checkoff. “To help measure productivity, track progress and set goals, the Checkoff’s Animal Science Committee has made gathering and disseminating productivity data a priority since 2011.”


Each year, a data collection company and Ken Stalder, swine Extension specialist at Iowa State University, compile and analyze production data from about 35 percent of the U.S. sow herd and offspring. All production phases (sow farm, nursery, wean-to-finish and conventional finisher facilities) are included.


Highlights of the results are published annually in the Industry Productivity Analysis. The latest industry report card shows both progress and hiccups.


“While there have been gains in the overall production efficiency of the U.S. swine herd, the analysis points to areas producers can tweak for additional improvement, such as preweaning mortality,” Hostetler said.


With the latest dataset, he noted, producers must take the impact of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) into account. PEDV began in 2013 and affected herds more broadly in 2014 and 2015.
“While PEDV’s impact may hide some improvements in key productivity indicators over time, it draws attention to the devastating impact that health challenges can have on the farm,” Hostetler said.


The height of the PEDV outbreak in 2014 is reflected in increased preweaning mortality and fewer pigs weaned per litter. These measures also were off-trend in both 2013 and 2015.
“Not until 2016 did the number of pigs weaned per litter return to pre-PEDV levels,” Hostetler said. “And preweaning mortality is yet to recover.”

Compile and Compare

The data analysis provides annual averages for key performance indicators. For each key performance indicator, producers also can see where the top 25 percent, the average and the bottom 25 percent of farms shake out.


“Producers can see where their farm falls and change management practices in areas to maximize performance in each stage of production,” Hostetler said.


Better genetics, improved health, precise management and excellent pig nutrition are the biggest factors driving herd productivity.


“Producers need to compile and analyze their farm’s data and then compare it to the national database,” Hostetler said. “That is how you really get a feel of where you stand and how much progress you need to make to stay competitive today.”


For the full report, go to
Latest Productivity Report Card Shows Progress, Hiccups