Weighing pigs at each stage of production provides the information to spot trends and issues, according to Joao Cavaco Rodrigues, swine business unit manager at Elanco. There is extra labor involved in weighing pigs, but it doesn’t have to be every pig in every batch. Producers can get valuable information by weighing just one group of pigs at each stage as a one-off exercise or an exercise they do each year. “Up to 30 percent of pigs can fail to reach target weight at slaughter, whether that is because of mortality, culls or poor growth resulting in ‘light’ pigs," said Rodrigues. "Because losses happen gradually, producers are often not even aware of them and it can be difficult to pinpoint where in the cycle they occur. You have to diagnose the problem first in order to find the solution.”
Once producers have identified when and where performance is dipping, they can target changes to that part of the system to improve health and growth efficiency. Yolande Seddon, research fellow at the Prairie Swine Centre in Canada, said that subclinical disease can cause considerable growth losses on finishing units and is a problem because it can’t actually be seen. But there is a lot that can be done at a low cost to identify underlying health problems and reduce their impact; for example, monitoring water consumption, using simple health scores like recording the amount of coughing, and weighing pigs. "Weighing pigs is worth the time, as it helps target where to make changes which can, ultimately, mean less overall effort for greater results,” said Seddon.