Meat Per Tonne of Feed - Become a Convert!

by 5m Editor
21 November 2008, at 12:00am

Respected pig consultant, John Gadd, explains why producers should adjust their future thinking to the amount of meat produced per tonne of feed, rather than a simple feed conversion ratio for JSR Genetics.

FCR - Food Conversion Ratio - has been a popular term of measurement in pig production for over 60 years. It has been favoured by researchers (because they have the facilities to measure it accurately) and promoted by animal feed manufacturers (as it covers their primary interest - feed). But FCR has distinct drawbacks in today's profit rather than performance-based benchmarking tools.

John Gadd
There are a variety of reasons why pig producers now need to consider a better means of measuring the cost-effectiveness of their primary on-cost - food.

FCR is difficult to measure sufficiently accurately

30 years ago I was the trouble-shooter for a large animal feed compounder and had to visit the small but inevitable number of farmers who had complained of poor food conversion from our products.

But were their complaints justified? The first essential was to check the calculations by calling for and analyzing their input and output documents, then, if needs be, test-weighing food and pigs. Not surprisingly working farms are busy places and failure to devote enough time and care to establish accurate FCRs was a common reason for any discrepancy. The average variance was ±0.22 (Gadd, 1984), and the position seems little changed today, as in those cases recently investigated the inaccuracy is still 0.2 either way (Gadd, 2003). This degree of variance at today's prices is equivalent to £12 to £15/ tonne of feed (about 8 to 10% adrift) – enough to cause farmers to make mistaken strategic decisions.

FCR ignores several vital performance indicators which influence profit

While cost of feed is a major on-cost, FCR, as it is invariably based on a liveweight figure, takes no account of things like killing out percentage (KO%; yield), mortalities, condemnations and low/no-value parts of the carcass. Above all, FCR ignores the amount of saleable meat obtained from the producer's primary input cost - food.

MTF: a Modern and Better Substitute for FCR

MTF (Meat per Tonne of Food) does everything FCR does - to an accuracy of between 2 and 3 per cent from many careful on-farm parallel measurements of FCR which I have made over the years. (Gadd, 1999). This is a small difference - far outweighed by the extra advantages of taking into account mortalities, yield and condemnations etc. as well as providing a quick assessment of income over food cost.

Pig producers are - or should be - paid on dressed carcass weight (dcw), i.e. saleable meat. This can be established from their sale dockets for a chosen period. Set against this primary output the feed used over the same period - their main input cost - can be obtained from their feed invoices. In practice, I find a 3-month rolling average for this latter is adequate to reduce any inaccuracy to less than 1%, which compares well with the 8 to 9% found when using the FCR method which farmers are quite likely to get wrong.

Easier to record

In this way, MTF is so much easier to record as all the work is done in the office and not out on the farm with all the hassle and distraction that weighing and measuring pigs and food entails.

Long ago I transferred my company reports from FCR to MTF – not only because it saved me work but it was easier to convince people of the true situation.

MTF is simplicity itself to calculate

How to calculate an MTF figure.

  1. Establish how many pigs are produced per tonne of feed
    e.g. food eaten/ pig = 300 kg
    1000 ÷ 300 = 3.33 pigs/ tonne of feed.
  2. Calculate saleable meat produced/pig
    e.g. 100 kg liveweight @ 75% killing-out percentage
    = 75 kg deadweight per pig.
  3. MTF = 3.33 pigs x 75 kg = 250 kg Meat per Tonne of Feed.

The above gives a typical on-farm performance for growing/finishing pigs, say from 7-108 kg live, but a target today should be nearer 300 MTF (7-108 kg). Notice (as should always be the case with FCR but invariably is omitted) that it is important to define the liveweight range involved.

MTF can also be used by breeder/finishers to establish a whole-herd figure if required. For example JSR's production sites run to a commercial target of 25 pigs/sow/year providing an MTF of 325kg (source = JSR), incorporating all the nursery, growing and finishing food used. This is currently 3.7% above the industry average and will rise in the future as lines such as the Geneconverter 700 come on stream across the group. Results to date from this line which has been introduced on the Eastburn unit have previously produced batches with an MTF of 369.2.

MTF and the future

Modern genetics allow pigs to be taken to heavier finishing weights but with much more meat laid down after the current cut-off point of around 108 kg liveweight which is dictated by too much fat deposition as the growing pig ages plus more lower value/unwanted parts of the carcase. Thus rather more and better quality food than at present is needed in the final stages for these heavier, fast-growing but much meatier gene lines, and the use of MTF shows how much the return rises well above the extra cost of the food, while FCR does not.

Pig producers use FCR - meat producers will use MTF.

We produce pigmeat, not pigs!


Gadd, J. 1984. Monograph: 'The New Terminology'. privately printed
Gadd, J. 1999. New terms - better yardsticks. Pig Farming, 47:2 (February 1999)
Gadd, J. 2003. Pig Production Problems - A Guide to their Solutions. Published by Nottingham University Press. p127-131
Gadd, J. 2005. Pig Production - What the Textbooks Don't Tell You. Published by Nottingham University Press. p41-45

November 2008