“What is a billionplus? Imagine sitting in this room a year from now, with the majority of our GDUs and sow farms filtered. Our gilts and sows will be healthy, and we’ll be seeing and feeling the full effect of what is just beginning to trickle in now—it will be a step change for all of us.”
Chief Operating Officer Noel Williams is talking about the results from the monumental effort and commitment to significantly reduce PRRS from our herd through farm-by-farm PRRS elimination strategies and positive filtration, and effort that has already driven up the total born of the very first farms filtered in 2016.
“While we are in the middle of this intense push to improve the health—which takes hundreds if not thousands of moving pieces to fall in line—it’s important that we pause to recognize some of the early results of all of this hard work,” said Noel.
To take a step back, the commitment to improve the health of our gilts, sows and their offspring is not to be taken lightly—PRRS has plagued our farms and thousands of other pork producers since the 1980s. Profit and productivity losses aside, the most devastating impact is the one it has on our caretakers. Not only does it hurt morale, but also caring for animals that are PRRS positive becomes a whole lot tougher—you can work hard and the virus makes your time and efforts wasted. It’s also hard to watch the virus hold back one of Mother Nature’s most productive and prolific mammals—the sow.
Noel’s message to the managers and leaders attending the mid-year Iowa Select Farms' production management meeting began with a progress report on the #billionplus goal of producing 1B, 57M pounds of pork this year. Through the end of April, PRRS, PRRS elimination strategies and numerous depop/repops have put the weaned pig results slightly under goal at 1,294,510 million weaned pigs—96% of goal.
For pounds of pork sold (hogs marketed) we are at 100% of goal. “Our marketing execution has been outstanding,” said Noel. Our finishing supervisors have consistently maintained a heavier market weight with minimal sort loss,” said Noel. Sort loss (price discounts) occurs at the packer when producers deliver their market animals with size variations.
While production trends for the first part of the year have held steady, the indicators for the remainder of the year are extremely bright. “If you look at a trend line graph of total born for all of our sows for 2016 through last week, you’ll see we started the year at 13.6 total born and averaged right at 14 total born for 2016. But since week four of 2017 we have seen a dramatic increase at 14.4 total born,” said Noel. “Total born drives the entire system for pounds marketed and if look at born alive you see a similar trend—the results are exciting.”
“What we’re seeing are tremendous results from our gilts coming out of our filtered breeding projects, and then even more so in the second and third parities of the sows housed in our earliest filtered farms.
“The potential for the second and third litter for those sows is huge, and for those of you managing through remodels right now, it’s just going to continue to take time to get there, and sometimes it’s hard to see and feel when you are grinding through the daily challenge on your farms,” said Noel.
In addition to total born, another metric we look at is born alive, which is the total born of any given litter, minus the mummies, stillborns and any pigs born alive that didn’t survive.
Over 70% of our sow farms had greater than 13 pigs born alive and we had three farms with over 14 pigs born alive. By comparison, in 2014 our average born alive as a system was 12.2.
Doug Bates and the team at the new Humeston Sow 32 farm—a farm that just got started last month—has been hitting 96.3% PCP (positive pregnancies) rates and their very first litters on gilts are 14.3 total born and 13 born alive. “Monica Dodge and her breeding project team have done a tremendous job, and these numbers show the potential our gilts have,” said Noel. “It’s exciting, and it shows the direction we are moving.”
Rick Chamberlin and the Sow 1 team was the other farm to receive gilts from our positive pressure filtered GDUs and are averaging 13.2 average born alive on gilt litters, demonstrating the potential from these positive pressure filtered GDUs. By comparison, in 2014 our gilt born alive was 11.2 pigs per litter.
Lance Lawrence and the Sow 11 team—the first farm we filtered and did PRRS elimination on—has been PRRS negative for about two quarters. “You can see through the first part of the year we are right at 15 total born and 13.6 born alive and it continues to improve,” said Noel.
Adam Swalla and the Sow 14 team also have a filtered farm and received a start-up herd (gilts). “Their sows are farrowing their second litters and are hitting a 15.2 total born and a 13.7 born alive,” said Noel. “Sometimes it’s a little slow to start up, but when we get to parity two, three and four the potential of those sows is tremendous.”
“All of our breeding project teams have done an outstanding job overseeing the breeding of the gilts while also learning how to run the new filtered barns,” said Noel. “The PCP rates (positive pregnancies) they have been hitting along with the total born and born alive shows the potential of our gilts in the system.”
Noel gave a special shout out to Brian Qualley, Dave Winters and Andrew Riniker for keeping up with the semen supply. These gene transfer centers (boar stud) managers and their teams have increased their output and stayed on top of the very challenging logistics of getting fresh semen out daily to the sow farms and breeding projects. “This area tends gets overlooked but these teams are essential to the business, and they have yet to let anyone down.”
“It humbles me to see how hard everyone is willing to work and how well everyone is communicating and working together,” said Noel. “By November all of our planned sow farm remodels will be done, and our daily operations will feel different. But farms are farms, and it’s our people that determine the culture and define who Iowa Select Farms is now and is going to be, and we are all transforming as well.”
You’ve all done a tremendous job communicating with each other, working together and your commitment to driving this system forward has been incredible,” said Noel. “Let’s keep pushing, we are almost there, and the results of our efforts will be there, too.” #billionplus