Pig producers could save nearly £9 per pig by improving their finishers' feed efficiency by 0.54, according to Matthew Curtis, managing director of Yorkshire-based pig breeding company ACMC Ltd.

The British Pig Executive's Pig Yearbook 2012 shows that while the feed conversion for ‘average’ feeding herds is 2.82, the top 10 percent manage 2.28. “If the figure for the average herds is 2.82, then this means there are many herds below that figure, so there is still plenty of scope for improvement,” said Curtis.

He said that with feed at the £261.83 per metric ton figure quoted in the Yearbook, if a 500-sow herd, producing 22 pigs per sow per year, improved from average to the top 10 percent it would save nearly £99,000 annually in feed costs. In reality, the savings could be much higher as the price of feed has risen substantially — and is likely to continue to rise.

Apart from paying attention to management, housing and nutrition, Curtis said a direct route to improving feed conversion is to use high-quality semen from, ideally, a nominated artificial insemination boar. Not only should these be selected on their estimated breeding value, but they should also be chosen from boars which have a history of selection for feed efficiency — not just growth.

Curtis said that while he acknowledges that pig producers are underpaid for their end product and the industry is working to increase returns, improving feed conversion is something which farmers can actually do themselves.