WA pig producers using pig shelters for wean-to-sale operations had a production advantage over their US counterparts, according to a visiting pig specialist.
University of Nebraska extension swine specialist Dr Mike Brumm, a keynote speaker at the Department of Agriculture's recent pig housing symposium, said the wean-to-sale model was increasing in popularity in the US.
He said it was clear from his visit to several WA piggeries that local producers were taking full advantage of their climate, which allowed shelters to be used to their maximum potential.
"You accomplish your environmental control with your shelters because the pigs do it, they burrow deep if they're cold and lie on top if they are hot," he said.
"But with wind chills of minus 50 centigrade I don't think it's going to work for US producers.
"You have got a production advantage and I see you're taking very good use of it, so keep charging forward with what you are doing and use with caution some of our experiences in the US."
Dr Brumm said due to the colder climate, the wean-to-sale system in the US had to be carried out in confined quarters, which also required more capital expenditure and heating costs.
However, the benefits of wean-to-sale operations included saved transport costs between sites, reduced labour costs and a heavier sale weight on a constant time system, including four days extra growth on lightweight pigs.
Dr Brumm said that in the US any pigs lighter than 110kg liveweight were discounted and 105kg pigs were severely discounted.
"Sale weight becomes a major issue for us," he said.
He said all male pigs in the US were castrated with the average barrow and gilt delivered to US slaughterhouses 121kg liveweight.
Dr Brumm said there had been a move back to mechanical ventilation in the US, which had added electricity costs of up to $1 a pig to run fans.
"They are going back because they don't feel they are getting control with curtain-sided barns," he said.
He said P2s averaged between 17-18 and that cost of production on current feed prices was about US75c-80c average per 100kg weight gain, or about Aus$1.50c/kg.
Average weaning age across the country was 19.2 days while a common farrowing figure in the US was 2500 sows which produced a 1000 pigs a week.