The range in F.C.E. from 40 – 110kg on commercial farms varies greatly from 2.4 – 2.9. This equates to 0.5 F.C.E or 500g of feed per kg live weight gain: costs €9/pig.

Hermitage Genetics have selected for F.C.E for 30 years and in the past 2 years more than 10,000 individual pigs have been tested for F.C.E. The average F.C.E. of these 10,000 pigs is 2.42 (58 – 105kg) which include sireline and damline boars and gilts.

The genetic potential using Hermitage Genetics for pigs from 40 – 110kg, is less than 2.5:1 F.C.E.

Scope for improvement for F.C.E comes from  A) Environment,   B) Nutrition,   C) Health and   D) Genetics.

A. Environment
We believe there are three important areas under this heading:

(i) Type of Feeding System
Trials on Hermitage farms have compared two types of feeding system; probe wet fed vs ad-lib wet-dry. Having repeated trials three times with similar findings, the wet dry system outperformed the probe wet fed by 0.16 F.C.E.

Another interesting finding is that mortality on the wet/dry feeders is running below 0.5%; compared to probe wet feeding where the mortality/pull-outs are +2% due to significantly higher injuries.

Probe wet feeding may be beneficial if a farm has a supply of a low priced liquid by-product. Hermitage has not enough detailed data to comment on long trough wet feed systems.

(ii) Room Temperature
Hermitage Farms have excellent temperature control technologies; however the finishing rooms do not have supplementary heat in the winter time and therefore the room temperatures can drop back to 20°C in cold days and nights. The significance of the colder months can be seen on the average monthly F.C.E. reports over the past two years. We believe the optimum temperature for finisher pigs to be 23°C and we estimate from our data that each drop of -2°C will cost 0.1 in F.C.E.!
We are continually monitoring the effects of room temperature on F.C.E.

(iii) Pen Design, access to feeder space/pig.
Optimum Space per Finish Pig is .85m².
Distance to Feeder – Hermitage suggest not more than 4 meters from pig to feeder.

B. Nutrition
Nutritional requirements are outlined in the ‘’Feeding Hermitage Genetics Guidelines” and attention should be given to quality of cereals used.

C. Health
Maintaining a stable health status is essential in this area. Where virus/bacterial problems exist, it is critical to implement a vaccine programme; e.g. pneumonia can affect F.C.E by 300g of feed per kg live weight gain!!

D. Genetics
Hermitage Genetics is one of the few breeding companies who are individually testing its replacement females (all breeds maternal and terminal). All Hermitage AI boars are selected for less than 2.2 F.C.E. from 60 – 110 kgs. Hermitage has seen a 0.1 improvement over the last two years by selecting replacement gilts with a known F.C.E.
Boars convert their feed at 0.2 better than gilts. This equates to 14kg of finish feed at 27c/kg = €3.78 benefit per boar vs gilt (40-110kg).

In conclusion, all finishing farms should target to have finishing F.C.E. below 2.5 from 40 – 110kgs.