Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

A dynamic programming model for optimising feeding and slaughter decisions regarding fattening pigs

Jarkko Niemi

Doctoral dissertation, April 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Economics and Management and MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Economic Research.

Costs of purchasing new piglets and of feeding them until slaughter are the main variable expenditures in pig fattening. They both depend on slaughter intensity, the nature of feeding patterns and the technological constraints of pig fattening, such as genotype. Therefore, it is of interest to examine the effect of production technology and changes in input and output prices on feeding and slaughter decisions. This study examines the problem by using a dynamic programming model that links genetic characteristics of a pig to feeding decisions and the timing of slaughter and takes into account how these jointly affect the quality-adjusted value of a carcass. The model simulates the growth mechanism of a pig under optional feeding and slaughter patterns and then solves the optimal feeding and slaughter decisions recursively. The state of nature and the genotype of a pig are known in the analysis.

The main contribution of this study is the dynamic approach that explicitly takes into account carcass quality while simultaneously optimising feeding and slaughter decisions. The method maximises the internal rate of return to the capacity unit. Hence, the results can have vital impact on competitiveness of pig production, which is known to be quite capital-intensive.

The results suggest that producer can significantly benefit from improvements in the pig’s genotype, because they improve efficiency of pig production. The annual benefits from obtaining pigs of improved genotype can be more than €20 per capacity unit. The annual net benefits of animal breeding to pig farms can also be considerable. Animals of improved genotype can reach optimal slaughter maturity quicker and produce leaner meat than animals of poor genotype. In order to fully utilise the benefits of animal breeding, the producer must adjust feeding and slaughter patterns on the basis of genotype.

The results suggest that the producer can benefit from flexible feeding technology. The flexible feeding technology segregates pigs into groups according to their weight, carcass leanness, genotype and sex and thereafter optimises feeding and slaughter decisions separately for these groups. Typically, such a technology provides incentives to feed piglets with protein-rich feed such that the genetic potential to produce leaner meat is fully utilised. When the pig approaches slaughter maturity, the share of protein-rich feed in the diet gradually decreases and the amount of energy-rich feed increases. Generally, the optimal slaughter weight is within the weight range that pays the highest price per kilogram of pig meat.

The optimal feeding pattern and the optimal timing of slaughter depend on price ratios. Particularly, an increase in the price of pig meat provides incentives to increase the growth rates up to the pig’s biological maximum by increasing the amount of energy in the feed. Price changes and changes in slaughter premium can also have large income effects.

Key words: barley, carcass composition, dynamic programming, feeding, genotypes, lean, pig fattening, precision agriculture, productivity, slaughter weight, soybeans

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Last updated 11.04.2006

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