Striving to be one of top 5% most efficient pig producers in the world
The ambition of Cherkizovo is clear and simple: They want to be one of the best. The Russian company wants to belong among the top 5% pig producers in the world when it comes to production efficiency and lowest cost price. Roger Jones, Brad Heron and the rest of the pork production team are modernizing and improving the production at full speed. Health, genetics and management are the cornerstones of this strategy.
‘We are getting more competitive each year.’ Brad Heron, Production Director at Cherkizovo, tells us about his work with enthusiasm and pride. ‘We are currently producing pigs for less than one US Dollar per kilo ($0.45/lb) and measure our results on Agri-Stats. We expect to improve on this number as we finish our disease eradication projects next year.’ Feed conversion is a crucial aspect, especially for the finishers. Feed cost per kilo gained is one of the important Key Performance Indicators for Cherkizovo.
However, Cherkizovo does not focus solely on cost price. Quality, taste and animal welfare are important as well. ‘We want to comply with the demands of McDonald’s, for example, on animal welfare so that we can deliver to them. We are also preparing ourselves for other non-Russian markets. Complying with all the rules, for example those of the EU, for that is important,’ explains Roger Jones, Head Controller of Operations at Cherkizovo.
In the eyes of Roger Jones, Russia is the best place on earth when it comes to producing pork for the lowest cost price. This gives Russian producers a big advantage. When all of the options, such as feed production, are used and combined with geographical location and the positive business climate in the country then Russia can become the leading pork producer of the world.
Genetics are the basis
When looking for genetics, Cherkizovo looks for a partner for the long term. In Topigs Norsvin they found a perfect match. Jones: ‘Topigs Norsvin wants to help us to be successful. They want to help to build our business both now and in the future. They are always looking for improvements and we like their service and support.’ This results in a two-way relationship that is beneficial for both parties. The conversations between Cherkizovo and Topigs Norsvin are on a business level. ‘We accept that our opinions can differ, but we do not take it personally. This respect is vital for success. Not just for us, but for Topigs Norsvin as well.’
The team of Cherkizovo sees that Topigs Norsvin goes for a long-term relationship. ‘We have the feeling that we want to build something great together,’ states Jones. ’I feel that when I am talking to CEO Martin Bijl, but also during my contact with the technicians who assist us in the production.’
Farm guys love TN70
Cherkizovo is introducing the TN70 sow in their system. At the end of 2016 the first sows came into production. ‘Our farm guys love the TN70,’ Brad Heron states. ‘The early results of the TN70 in our system have exceeded expectations as we are starting to see live-born numbers consistently at 13.3 on gilts, with our parity 3 animals now producing 15.6 live born. ‘
Heron continues: ‘We are especially excited about the growth and mothering capability of the sows. The pigs wean at an average of 6 kg at 19 days of age. In our system, we do not move any pigs after the colostrum phase, and are currently converting 90% of our live-born to wean pigs. The pigs also perform in the wean to market phase as we currently are converting 93% of the wean pigs into market hogs. Health is also a huge factor in this success, but the job of production is to maximize the genetic potential of our animals.’
Cherkizovo believes in the eradication of diseases. The company is executing a large-scale breeding project that is breeding and gestating 1200 gilts per week. This is actively depopulating and repopulating existing sow herds and stocking new construction facilities with high-health animals. Brad Heron states with a smile: ‘When we have eradicated the costly diseases from our system, the breeding project can be used to clean up facilities that are acquired in the future from companies that are unable to get cost of production to profitable levels.’
A pre-condition for obtaining the maximum genetic potential from the genetics used is a healthy pig herd. Heron: ‘Bad health eats genetic potential.’ Health is an important issue when looking at a low-cost price. First of all, disease control through vaccination is expensive and is needed time after time. But high health is also essential for high production. Higher feed costs caused by diseases can be substantial and losses due to death have a negative impact on the production costs.
But genetics and health are not the only things Cherkizovo is looking at. They look at the entire concept of production to find ways of improving production and reducing costs. One example is how the new production units are designed. Whereas sows are mostly housed in multisite systems and weaned pigs and finishers are housed in separate units, Cherkizovo has chosen a different option. Heron: ‘We work with a system where piglets weaned at 6 kg (13 lbs) go to the rearing/finisher barn and stay at the same place until they are transported to the slaughterhouse.’ This means that the pigs do not experience a setback caused by the stress of transport. This leads to fewer days of reduced gain and higher feed costs. The labor and other costs of the transport are also cut out of the system.
About Cherkizovo Group
Cherkizovo is one of the top three pork producers in Russia. From 16 sow farms, they produce over 2 million market pigs per year. The majority of the production takes place in new modern facilities built in recent years. The company will expand to 100,000 sows by the end of 2018 and it has replaced old production units, the oldest date from the 1960s, with state-of-the-art new units in the next few years.
Pork production is only one of Cherkizovo’s activities. The company is Russia’s largest producer of meat products. The Group is one of the biggest producers of chicken, pork and processed meat and is the country’s largest feed manufacturer.
This is an updated version of an article that was published in Topigs Norsvin We Magazine 2017.