In order to make pig production an increasingly profitable business, increasing productivity should be a continuous target of farms. Just like an industry is able to define the installed capacity of a plant – measuring the amount of products their equipment is able to manufacture – farms can (and should!) forecast how many piglets their sows are able to produce.
However, defining this target is still a great challenge for farm managers, particularly because they are not sure about one rather practical question: how many piglets should a sow produce throughout its life? The first step to get an answer to this question is to search for information with genetic companies, because they are able to estimate the maximum number of piglets their sows are able to produce.
This is the number that should be aimed at and, together with other factors; it will indicate the maximum productive potential of the farm. In order for this potential to be reached, indicators should not be analyzed in isolation; the analysis should rather consider the performance of the sows and its impact on production as a whole. Producers are often concerned only with getting a good ratio of pigs weaned per sow per year and a good retention rate up to the third parity. But when they cull a sow, they don’t ask how much it has produced throughout its whole productive life. Has all the genetic potential been achieved? If it could have produced 100 piglets during the period it was at the farm, but at the time it was culled you find out that it produced only 40 or 50, for example, this means that there has been a considerable waste.
The difference between what could have been produced by every sow and what was actually produced means money lost. When you have clarity about the production potential of a sow during its whole productive life, it becomes easier to identify the points of waste. Maybe the sow has produced less because of low parity rates, early culling, high mortality rate, etc.
The analysis of these and other indicators makes more sense when you know the goal to be achieved. Based on the predicted genetic performance and considering the available infrastructure, including labor and facilities, you can anticipate the maximum productive potential of your sows, the number of piglets they should produce throughout their lives, and thus set targets to achieve it.
If the goal is always to try to have lower cost and zero waste, the team should work so that all sows produce at a maximum, because unproductive sows lead to a reduction in profits. Additionally, we have to check the performance of the sows more broadly in order to better identify individual waste – that is – how much you fail to gain with every sow. This broader view is fundamental to implement the Thought+1 process in the farm and fight waste, eliminating for good this major factor that affects pig production.
What about you? Do you already know the productive potential of the sows in your farm? Please share your experience with us!
In the day-to-day routine of pig production, we usually talk a lot about growth, productivity rates and performance indicators, a clear sign that data collection is already an integral part of the daily activities in the farm. The question is: how can all these data be turned into quality information that can effectively contribute to identify issues and make decisions on the business?
Information is a piece of data with meaning, that is, organized and processed to be useful to people. In farms, numbers such as total number of sows bred, total number of parities and total number of weaned pigs are only data and if they are analyzed out of context, they don’t help you make any decision. However, access to these data in an organized and contextualized manner will allow you to assess productivity and its progress over time more precisely.
Therefore, when farm managers work based on reliable information, they are able to clearly see production bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement. With this picture in their hands, it is easier for leaders to share the issues with their team, engaging all those involved in the search for solutions.
We believe that the right information, at the right time, to the right person is the factor that will lead to a leap towards excellence management, enabling farm workers to increase their productivity. However, in addition to believing in people’s potential, you should know how to collect, organize and analyze production information so that you can make every part of your farm more efficient, with the main goal of reaching the maximum production potential.
In order to do that, there are four fundamental steps:
1) Use technology as a management tool. Implement computerized systems to make information input, storage and use more reliable, quicker and practical.
2) Care about data collection. Establish auditing procedures for the data that is collected and entered into your system. Remember: everything that happens in the farm should be in your system; only this way it is possible to have a comprehensive and accurate management.
3) Create an agenda to analyze information. The frequent use of information will make you better prepared to identify changes and opportunities for improvement.
4) Make decisions based on information. From the analysis of collected information, set targets and make a plan to improve farm results. Managing production requires knowing exactly how much the farm can produce and then prepare the route to get there, using your management tools and production information to outline the route.
But in addition to knowledge and skill, this process requires attitude, that is, you must wish to make things better every day. You will soon realize that information can be the main raw material for the growth of your farm. Unlike the results achieved by genetics, nutrition and health, for example, which require more time and resources, the results generated by information depend much more on the manager, his attitude towards the farm performance and the challenges faced by the farm. So, let’s get on it!
What about you? Have you been using information to leverage the management of your farm?
Suppose that you propose a trip to your farm team. Then, after saying the city of destination and that you expect all there, you realize that your team has no idea how to get there. What would be your first reaction? You would probably would draw a map and give it to the team, wouldn’t you?
The need to visualize the paths that lead us to a desired destination is the rationale of one of the principles of Thinking +1: visual management. The proposal is to increase the access to information on farm productivity using simple visual elements that allow immediately understanding the current farm situation, the goals, and the obstacles to reach them.
This is the idea of the Production Map, a useful tool to achieve maximum production potential. In short, this map has precisely the same function of the map of a journey: to guide people to safely reach the final destination. In a pig farm, this destination is represented by the goals, which should be visually and clearly presented to all those involved in live production.
In addition of ensuring that the team is aligned, leading to a collective effort to reach a same goal, visual management has the power to engage people, because it allows everyone to objectively have access to critical information, and therefore, look for solutions for the detected problems. When provided with the correct information, presented in a proper and stimulating manner, the employees feel valued and belonging to a broader process, which is the continuous improvement of their workplace.
Check out the benefits of visual management:
1) Everything at sight: a visual management tool, such as the Production Map, provides the most relevant information on the production to all those involved in daily farm activities. We suggest you post it on the walls around the farm.
2) Just a glance allows you to know what is happening: in visual management, the quality of information is always more important than its quantity. Instead of a mass of data, choose key indicators to share with your team.
3) Crystal clear: the map summarizes the management complexity to the operational sectors. Each employee needs to understand the importance of his/her work for the improvement of the results.
4) Coordination effort: based on the map information, the team may identify deviations and search for solutions.
5) Information culture: the use of the map will make you team increasingly aware of indicators and data, improving the management of each production step.
6) More productive meetings: the map sets the agenda for the regular meetings to follow up the farm’s performance, making discussions more dynamic.
The Production Map is an excellent tool to put visual management into practice, but it is not the only one. Each worker may find other ways of visually sharing objectives, results, and challenges of their daily activities. You can rest assured that visual management will drive your team to reach safely the desired destination.
What about you? Do you use visual management tools? Have you tested the Production Map yet? Share your experience with us!
How far can you get? Our experience in the field shows that most pig producers are still not able to answer this question, and unfortunately most Brazilian pig farmers do not work with well-defined goals. To change this scenario, we invite you to build a map for your business, determining the departure and the arrival points, as well as the actions that should be taken along the way.
The first step is to identify, based on good-quality information, your current production status. Analyze the production indicators and use this diagnosis to evaluate which are the opportunities for improving performance.
Once you defined your departure point, establish an annual production goal. This means that in the beginning of each year, you need to define a goal to achieve. This goal will affect all indicators identified in the first step. For instance, if the goal is to deliver 15,600 piglets per year, with a productivity of 30 weaned piglets per sow per year, you will know that you will need at least 520 productive sows. After this is defined – and duly recorded in your production map – you will need to divide the annual goal into monthly deliveries, and then into weekly deliveries.
These goals must be based both on your production potential and on the resources available to achieve them, including management practices, labor, and facilities. To aid this process, you can compare your farm’s performance against that obtained by farms with similar infrastructure. This is known as benchmarking, and you can use the database Agriness Top Pig Producers to determine achievable goals.
In addition of guiding your management process, your team will be stimulated when these goals are presented. Therefore, the goals should be discussed with all workers and sectors involved in production. It is essential to show that the work of each employee influences the final results. The weekly meetings are excellent opportunities to reinforce this.
For instance, do the employees that work in the farrowing unit clearly know how many farrowings are needed each week or how many piglets need to be weaned weekly to achieve the annual production goal? What is the maximum acceptable mortality rate? This is why the annual and monthly goals need to be established on weekly basis. In addition of knowing how to perform their activities, each worker must have a clear understanding why they need to do them.
After defining the delivery goal, you need to identify the challenges you and team need to overcome to achieve them. First, you have to find why the current situation is different from your goal. What do you need to change to direct the farm processes towards the defined goals?
Based on the responses to these and other questions, you will be able to establish the best route to your destination. Once you have collected the farm’s data, benchmarked your data against other farmers, defined your goals, and identified the critical points, you are ready to start. Get to work!
What about you? Do you already use goals for your operation?