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Belgian research to determine optimal pig slaughter weight

The Flemish Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO) will launch a project to determine exactly the effect of a changing slaughter weight on the profitability of a pig farm and a slaughterhouse – and will communicate about this independently.

The project aims to include all costs, revenues and environmental implications of every changed slaughter weight. This way additional objective information can be made public for players on the pig and pork market. The researchers expect the markets this way to be able to work in a more transparent and competitive way.

A press release by ILVO explained that the question about the optimum slaughter weight of finishers is very timely since margins are small and hence pork producers are very motivated to find those margins.

The PhD project should bring tools to better determine the ideal slaughterweight. First, technical curves will be determined very accurately, i.e. growth, feed intake, feed conversion and mortality figures. In addition, the relationship between carcass quality and growing slaughterweight will be researched, for boars, barrows and gilts alike. This way, it is hoped a flexible and user-friendly calculating instrument will come into existence.

The press release explains: "A change in slaughter weight is related to a changed finishing period and thus also the number of total finishing rounds per pig place per year. Should the slaughter weight change, the yield per pig place will change in terms of produced kg of finisher pig. In addition on the cost side, the amound of feed used as well as the number of piglets will change. Optimising slaughter weight then is a matter of finding the best combination of produced kg of finishing pig, feed usage, and number of piglets per pig place per year, to get a maximum outcome.

The researchers hope to be able to publish figures about 'ideal slaughter weights' for 'an average Flemish pig farm'. Secondly, the researchers hope to combine everything in optimisation models. Thirdly – a calculating tool will be launched so producers can calculate for themselves what slaughter weight to aim for. For now, it is estimated this will be available by 2018.


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