NCSU Extension Swine Husbandry 2005
A more printable version of Swine News in
2005 . Volume 28, Number 09
DEVELOPING A SUCCESSFUL VALUE-ADDED OR SPECIALTY FARM ENTERPRISE
Change is continuous in farming. It may be caused by prices,
farm programs, trade policies, technology, markets, consumer
preferences, or other aspects. Some farm enterprises benefit from
these changes and some are harmed, so the search for profitable
alternatives is a continuous challenge. There are no “silver bullets,”
but there are seven important questions that can guide a search for
alternative enterprises. Answering each of these is important to
Why are you interested in alternative
enterprises? Some of the issues to think about include your
lifestyle and family income goals, the farm products or services
of interest to you, and other options that might help you achieve
your goals. It also helps to examine the time and investment capital
you have available.
What are consumers interested in buying, and who will be your customers?
Many farm families are not accustomed to studying their customers because
they sell commodities that move into global markets. However, many
alternatives to these traditional farm enterprises operate in local
or specialty markets, so knowing your customers and marketing issues
become very important. Two tasks must be completed—a market analysis
of potential customers and competitors, and an assessment of the
competitiveness of your venture. Jack Welch, former CEO of General
Electric, said, “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t
compete.” This is as true for the family farm as it is for a major
What are you planning to sell, and how will you sell it? There are four
subparts to this question: What is your product or service, how you will
get it to your customer, how will you promote it, and how you will set
Will your product require processing, and, if so, how will you produce it?
Food products have a host of technical, regulatory, and production
requirements that affect production, distribution, and sale.
What business and legal issues apply? Depending on the type of enterprise
and the scale of operation, you may need to think about risk management
and insurance, the form of your business organization (partnership,
corporation, etc.), contracts, employment law compliance, business and
employment taxes, and intellectual property protection.
What resources will you need? Once your ideas have been well developed and
you have a production and marketing plan, you should determine what
resources you will need and where they will come from. These may include
human resources (family members and external advisers), facilities and
equipment, suppliers and distributors, and financing (including your own
money and borrowing needs)
Will it be financially feasible and worthwhile? This is most people’s least
favorite part of planning, but just because you CAN produce and sell
something doesn’t mean it will be a financial success. There are four
aspects to consider: The profitability of the venture once you get
established; cash flow, especially during the start-up phase; financial
risk and risk management, including your exit strategy if things go badly
wrong; and the ability of this enterprise to meet the lifestyle and income
goals you identified in Question 1.
As you can see, these questions are easy to ask but not as easy to answer.
Sometimes the first answer you come up with is not workable or suitable,
and you have to rethink your ideas. All of this requires effort, but taking
the time to make sure your idea will work will help avoid problems or
disappointments down the road.
-Geoff Benson, Ph.D.
Department of Agriculutral &
NC State University
ENERGY PRICES! OUCH!!
The high price of energy will impact many activities on the farm. Not only
are prices at the gasoline pump high, but as oil and energy costs rise,
natural gas, propane, and fertilizer will be more expensive, too.
Swine producers should consider ways to save energy costs and maximize
efficiency without adversely impacting production. Here are some ways:
Most of the heat loss from a livestock building occurs through
However, producers should resist the temptation to under-ventilate their
buildings. This will result in higher humidity and gas levels and may
create health problems, costing more than the fuel saved. Fine-tuning
the ventilation system is a more appropriate approach. Maintenance is
important to be sure things are operating at peak efficiency.
Make sure all fans and inlets are cleaned regularly and are well
maintained. Fans lose efficiency as they become dirty or if the shutter
is damaged or plugged with dirt. Inlets should close tightly when not
used. Seal openings where heat can be lost and where moisture seeps into
walls, which will slowly rot the building’s materials and damage the
insulation. Heaters should be cleaned and serviced regularly so they run
at peak efficiency.
Make sure all curtains are tight, and overlap the opening completely when
curtains are closed. Make sure all holes are patched. Inspect curtains
regularly and keep them maintained. One night with a curtain malfunction
will be very expensive if the heater runs to make up for the open curtain.
Consider upgrading to an insulated curtain if warranted, particularly in
Ventilation control is important as well. Most controllers will not let
second-stage fans and heaters run at the same time; however, they may cycle
when they should not, wasting heat. Spend time in your building observing
fans and heaters coming on and off. If a heater runs and then a second stage
fan comes on, you should exam the offsets on the heater setting. This is a
frequent problem with heaters that are too large for the room, or in older
controllers that are not set properly.
Other ways to save energy include watching the controllers’ set-point
closely. Pigs should be comfortable to slightly cool. Many swine nurseries,
for instance, are heated too much. Set points will vary, depending on drafts
and other factors that affect pig comfort, but many nurseries for pigs
weaned at 3 to 4 weeks can be set as low as 80 degrees Fahrenheit after
the pigs have adjusted for a day or two post-weaning and are eating
aggressively. After the pigs have been weaned, nursery temps should be
lowered 3 to 4 degrees per week. Likewise, finishing pigs can tolerate
temperatures as low as 58 degrees in slatted buildings as they approach
market weight. Sows may need slightly warmer temperatures if they are in
stalls and unable to huddle together.
Other energy-saving measures include reducing the number of trips to town
for supplies. Combine trips when possible, and don’t drive the gas-guzzler
truck to pick up a nail. Attempt to have full loads of feed delivered, and
try to market full loads of pigs at one time.
Reevaluate the value of your manure, particularly for nitrogen. Nitrogen
prices are also increasing as energy costs rise. Manage manure whenever
possible to maximize nitrogen value for your cropping systems. Conserve
fertilizer costs by utilizing manure as efficiently as possible.
These suggestions may have a small impact individually, but in combination,
they may decrease your energy costs significantly during this time of high
prices. Other ideas for conserving may be found at this Iowa State
University Web site:
Ph.D., P.E., Iowa State University
Ph.D., National Pork Board
MY ACHING BACK
Working in a swine operation can place significant demands on your back.
However, it is possible to avoid back pain and injuries through preventative
measures. The following safety guidelines can help farm workers to avoid
- Pay attention to posture and get regular exercise. Strong and flexible
muscles and minimal stress due to incorrect posture are your best bets in
maintaining a healthy back.
- Avoid bending at the waist when lifting heavy objects. Use your legs
and arms to do the lifting by bending at your knees and keeping your back
- Keep objects close to your body when lifting.
- Ensure that you have a tight grip.
- Use a ladder when lifting something over your head.
- Raise one of your legs as you reach over to pick up light items.
Standing flat-footed tends to strain muscles.
- Avoid twisting at the waist while you lift.
- Face the object that you are lifting.
- Minimize hazards that might cause you to trip or slip.
- If the object you are moving is heavy, get help. Use a dolly or
a forklift if you can.
- Don’t overdo it. If you have to strain to lift a load it is too heavy.
- Take many small breaks between lifts if you are lifting a number of
PORK MANAGERS CONFERENCE
The National Pork Board Professional Managers Conference, focusing on gilt
and sow throughput, will be held Nov. 8-9 at the Sampson Agri-Exposition
Center in Clinton.
You will receive practical information to improve reproductive output from
the unit or system you manage. You will get hands-on training you can take
home and apply immediately. The conference aims to deliver knowledge and
information to fine-tune a swine operation for maximum productivity and
Topics to be discussed include:
- Stray voltage (electrical pitfalls)
- Ventilation management
- Sow longevity
- Animal welfare
- Gilt pool management
- Emerging/re-emerging diseases
- Troubleshooting (farrowing rate, litter size, and breeding)
To register and/or obtain more information, call 800-456-PORK or
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Last modified July 1, 2005.