Pork production: food vs. fuel
BROOKINGS, S.D. – Dramatic increases in propane costs have many pork producers wondering if it’s more profitable to turn down the thermostat and increase available feed. This can be particularly true for early weaned pigs, which have the highest temperature requirement of all pigs.
“Typically when we hear the phrase “food vs fuel,” it’s in regard to ethanol production. However, with the recent increase in propane costs the same could be said for pork production,” said Bob Thaler, SDSU Extension Professor and Swine Specialist. “The pig is incredibly adaptive to its environment, and can compensate for changes in thermal environment by a variety of ways, the biggest probably being changes in feed intake.”
A pig’s feed intake is directly related to the temperature of the pig’s environment. He explained that as the temperature decreases, a pig will eat more feed in order to generate more body heat to stay warm.
“As long as gut fill isn’t an issue, daily gains should be normal, but feed efficiency will suffer because the extra pounds of feed are going into heat production and not into body growth,” he said.
Basically, Thaler said the choice comes down to whether the extra calories from feed are cheaper than the cost of the propane needed to keep the pig in its thermal neutral zone. With corn at $4 per bushel, soybean meal at $450 per ton and propane close to $4 per gallon, utilizing more feed calories is something he said producers should at least consider.
For more information, contact Bob Thaler, SDSU Extension Swine Specialist 605-688-5435, or Ashley Gelderman, SDSU Extension Swine Field Specialist, 605-782-3290. F