Meat & Livestock News

Data-Driven Focus: The Key to Success in Modern Pork Production


  • Focus and data-driven decision-making are highlighted as crucial for success in modern pork production.
  • The pork industry sees improvements in feed costs and nursery mortality, with ongoing challenges in sow and finishing mortality rates.
  • MetaFarms’ analysis underscores the importance of data in managing farm productivity and addressing mortality issues.

In the realm of modern pork production, the sheer volume of data and myriad challenges can make maintaining focus a daunting task. Brad Eckberg, a business analyst at MetaFarms, Inc., emphasises that the key differentiator between high-performing pork production systems and their less successful counterparts is their ability to maintain focus, particularly on financial efficiency.

Eckberg, who spends considerable time analysing data, engaging with producers, and visiting pork production systems nationwide, notes that top-performing companies are those that consistently engage with data to drive their operations. This engagement helps them stay ahead by making informed decisions daily.

The challenge for many in the industry is finding the time to sift through the data amidst the day-to-day demands of pork production. Eckberg stresses the importance of regular data monitoring, arguing that you can only manage what you measure. He advocates for setting clear goals based on current performance metrics as a pathway to improvement.

2023: A Year in Review

The past year has seen notable trends within the pork industry, according to MetaFarms’ analysis. Positive developments include reduced feed costs and a decrease in nursery mortality, from 4.41% in 2022 to 3.99% in 2023. Sow productivity has also seen an uptick, with the average pigs weaned per mated female per year rising to 25.8, marking a continuous improvement over the past four years.

Genetic advancements have contributed to an increase in total born averages, reaching 15.3 pigs in 2023. However, pre-wean mortality rates have remained relatively stagnant, and finishing mortality rates have not shown significant improvement, indicating areas where the industry can focus on making gains.

Addressing Mortality Challenges

The most concerning statistic for the industry is the increase in sow death loss, which reached an all-time high of 15.3% in 2023. This trend represents a significant challenge and underscores the need for targeted strategies to reverse this direction.

Similarly, grow-finish mortality has also hit a record high, indicating a critical area for industry attention.

Eckberg argues that success in addressing these challenges comes from a focused approach that leverages data for planning and decision-making.

He highlights the limitations of relying solely on intuition or anecdotal evidence when managing farm operations. Instead, he advocates for the use of data to inform decisions, thereby enhancing the ability to respond to challenges effectively.

The Power of Data

The advantage of having immediate access to data cannot be overstated. Data allows farm workers to record and analyse information in real time, facilitating better decision-making and communication. This approach not only improves farm management practices but also supports the overall health and productivity of the herd.

This article is the first in a four-part series exploring the preliminary numbers for 2023 from MetaFarms’ database, which includes data from 1.1 million sows across 460 farms, as well as insights into nursery pig and wean-to-finish pig management. As more data becomes available, further analysis will be shared, offering a deeper understanding of the trends and challenges facing the pork industry today.