The production of swine is an intensive and highly integrated industry. In contrast to beef cattle, swine live within sheds for the complete production cycle within controlled environments and eat a complete processed diet. The production cycle revolves around two often separate components: the reproductive management of sows and the growth and finishing of their progeny for sale. The key drivers of profitability in swine production are reproductive efficiency, growth rate, and the cost and utilization efficiency of the feed.
The supply of piglets to the grower facilities should be constant in order to immediately fill pen space as it becomes available. Active management of reproduction is essential to allow a constant supply of piglets. Grower pigs must also gain weight at an appropriate rate to allow early marketing at uniform weights and to maintain a uniform supply to the processors. This both reduces the cost of production and makes space available for the next grower pig. Feed conversion (the amount of feed required to produce a unit of weight gain) must be efficient to ensure production is profitable, and it is a function of the diet, feeding system, the genetics of the animal, and the effectiveness of disease control.
Management concentrates on balancing the supply of required nutrients at reasonable cost, analyzing the performance of diets, maintaining herd reproductive performance and growth rates, and controlling pathogens. The intensive nature of the production system supports the spread of infectious disease; therefore, farm biosecurity systems are becoming increasingly complex.
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