“What isn’t measured or measured accurately is hard to change,” said Valerie Duttlinger, an Indiana producer, analyst for Swine Management Services (SMS) and member of the Pig Survivability Working Group. “Until farms are committed to identifying why a pig was removed, it will be hard to make improvements.”
Improved data accuracy for pig removals doesn’t mean adding more numbers or details. In fact, in this case it means more concise, clear and focused reasons, she said, citing a farm that listed 128 reasons for sow removals.
“That makes it too complicated to assign the loss to the right reason, so workers just pick any reason,” she said.
With assistance from Iowa State’s Ken Stalder and the Pork Checkoff’s Chris Hostetler, SMS reduced the list to six categories: disease/health, performance, locomotion, reproduction, intestinal, other.
“Then you can use the additional 23 subcategories if you want more detail,” Stalder noted. “That’s about as detailed as you can get and still have data that is useful to analyze.”
The list also requires citing how the animal was removed (culled, death or euthanized). A similar list could be developed for and applied to growing pigs.
Record the removal reason now versus later – Designate a reason when you decide to cull an animal.
“It’s too easy to forget later,” said Duttlinger, adding that this also applies to deaths. “And don’t try to record a reason when you’re loading the truck.”
Record euthanized animals and deaths separately – This detail is increasingly important for the farm and the industry to know. If your software provider doesn’t accommodate this, ask for a change or consider changing providers.
Enhance loss records for growing pigs – Too often there is no reason or date or weight recorded for deaths of growing pigs, Duttlinger said.
“Those things are all important when you’re trying to find trends,” she said. “It may require a necropsy to determine why a growing pig died. That’s time consuming, but the answers may prove valuable.”
Duttlinger would like to see producers adopt more standardized reasons for pig removals and deaths for a more accurate depiction of what’s happening industry-wide.