5 Ways to Better Use Your Money

Spencer Wayne, PhD, DVM – Pipestone Veterinary Services

Wayne_Spencer1.      Don’t Cut the Wrong Corners
When things get tight, a logical first step is to start trimming costs, but be careful when doing this.  Things were put in place for a reason.  Make sure that the reason is still attended to.  Here are some examples regarding health where cutting some minor costs led to some major losses.

a.) “Mycoplasma-stable” sow unit discontinues using mycoplasma vaccine gilts (didn’t think it was doing anything).  A PRRS elimination herd closure interrupted the natural transmission of mycoplasma.  The unit then experienced a dramatic mycoplasma infection… lost pregnancies, dead gilts, several months of pigs that experienced mycoplasma in the nursery, and drug costs.

Moral of the story: A vaccine protocol costing less than $0.01 in pig- cost would have prevented a significant health event.

b.) Growing pig producer with a known ileitis-challenged flow, decides to cut oral vaccination to ½ dose.  This saves roughly $0.45/pig.  Over four groups, he experiences two groups with significant ileitis-associated losses (~3% extra late-finishing mortality on the two groups).  This puts average mortality at 1.5% for all four. This mortality costs ~ $3.00/pig.   Not a good trade-off.

Moral of the story: Vaccines are manufactured to meet the minimum requirements of efficacy… when you cut the dose, you increase your odds of failure.

2.      Shift to Biologics and Health Upgrades
Aim to “prevent” instead of “treat” illnesses.  Vaccines are used to “prevent” illness before it occurs, where antibiotics are generally used to “treat” existing diseases.  Work with your veterinarian to gain a better understanding of what specific health issues/diseases are impacting your production.  This may allow you to switch from playing defense (treatment with antibiotics) to offense (prevention with vaccines).  Some disease can truly be eliminated from your herd.  A PRRS elimination effort can be as simple as a one turn yardage cost for gilt-rearing.  The result can be a huge savings on per pig med costs and increased performance.

Antibiotic Resistance is becoming a concern for all of us.  Consider signing up for PART (Pipestone Antibiotic Resistance Tracker) which will give you and your vet better insight into your comprehensive antibiotic use.

Moral of the story:  Consider immunity and health upgrades to improve pig health and performance.

3.       Individual Pig Care
Sometimes the whole group needs to be treated, but more often, it is just individuals.  An expensive/effective antibiotic given to those that need it is better than giving a less effective drug to the whole group.

Example: Treating the bottom 10% of weaned pigs in a group with a drug that costs $0.20/pig gives an average treatment cost of $0.02/pig [10% of 20¢].  Treating the whole group with a broad spectrum water medication for 5 days would cost ~$0.15/pig.  The pigs that need the medicine the most are the ones that drink the least medicated water, proving a better case for injectable treatment.  Also, anytime you add an antibiotic to the gut, you disrupt it by killing both good and bad bacteria.

Moral of the story: Obvious savings by focusing efforts.  Caretakers that do this well get great results.

4.      Gilt Management
Gilts cost money to feed and house and that adds up.  You know that, but here’s some examples for how to trim your gilt cost.

       a. Feed

  • Feed costs $0.05/lb à late developer gilt eats 10#/day à $0.50/day to feed
  • If your average gilt age at 1st service is 251 days and you drop it to 230 days, that equates to roughly $0.20/pig going out the door.  Real money in your hand.
  • Also… older gilts more likely to enter as fatties are less likely to have a long productive life.  This is additional value for dropping age.

      b. Matrix

  • If you batch farrow, then likely use Matrix for Gilts… a cost that can easily add up to $0.50/pig.
  • You can trim your costs by doing a good job of heat-no-service documentation:
    • Matrix or its new generic version cost roughly $ 1.45/gilt/day.
    • A standard 14 day treatment costs $20.
    • If you can identify 33% that would need a shorter treatment (7 day), you’ll spend $10/gilt.
    • If you can pull in 33% of your breeds naturally, you’ll spend $0/gilt
    • Being crafty and selective will save you $10/gilt… or roughly $18/pig going out the door.  Real money in your hand.

Moral of the story: Trim your gilt cost inputs and save money.

5.      Use Your Vet
Speaking for myself, I have to say that I love my relationships with my clients.  It is easy to spend time socializing with people you care about.  HOWEVER, good jokes and the rumor mill don’t improve your operation.

You’ve already paid the one-way drive time and the standard per mile cost (check your invoice), now it’s time to put him or her through their paces.  The veterinarians in our group get a broad exposure to many types of production in lots of different settings and have knowledge of ventilation, vaccines, antibiotics, management, biosecurity, facility design, genetics, and (dare I say) nutrition.  And… believe it or not, we appreciate clients who push us.

Here’s a few recommendations to take better advantage of your veterinary resource:

  • Have a list of things to cover and keep the visit focused on these
  • Push your vet deep into their resources… “teach me this”, “how does this work?”, “send me this material”, “write this up”, “call this person”, etc…
  • Seek to set down (health) goals and work towards them …. For example: “I want to eliminate Mycoplasma. Can we do this?  How can we do this?  Is it a good idea?  Let’s do it!”

Moral of the story: We should be exhausted when we leave your farm, if you do this right.

There’s my 5 Ways to Better Use Your Money in 2017.  As always, any questions feel free to contact myself at Spencer.Wayne@pipestone.com or your Pipestone Veterinarian at 507.825.4211.