Marketing returns from finished pigs

To improve returns from your finished pigs, review your contract, considering your location, pig production system and current grading.
Back to Finishing pigs

Top tips to optimise your marketing returns

  • Review your contract at least quarterly and after changes in farm policy, e.g. genetics, nutrition or accommodation
  • Be aware of any seasonal variations that are normal for your unit, e.g. probes are typically lowest in March and April, and highest in the autumn
  • If you don’t sell through a marketing company, talk to our abattoir buyer regularly to discuss market opportunities

Minimising weight variation

It is important to both producer and processor that pigs are uniform and consistent. The outlet will have already allocated the pigs to a customer before they arrive, so if a batch is different from normal, or highly variable, it will be more difficult for the processor to sell these pigs.

Minimising weight variation can help maximise returns. Set up an efficient weighing routine and weigh a few representative pigs each week; you can place them in the passageway or a pen next to the main group to help with accurate selection to meet your contract.

Processor options

Each region offers a selection of outlets, including smaller multispecies and larger pig-specific abattoirs. It is common for an abattoir to have supply contracts that reflect the size of the line and the abattoir’s customer contracts.

The size of the line affects the weight band of the contract, and abattoirs may also have specific customer contracts, such as ‘rind on’, which favour non-coloured pigs. When choosing a contract, make sure you think about whether you can meet the requirements.

Using your local abattoir should reduce the cost of transport and may give more flexibility.


Ensure you understand what will happen to pigs that fall outside the contract specifications because this can reduce the overall margin per pig. Some variation is inevitable and achieving 100% in the box can be inefficient. There is an economic balance that needs to be calculated between growth rates and grading. Work with your nutritionist to understand the optimum for your herd.

  • Selling pigs with slightly higher P2 but faster growth rate might be more economic
  • An unorganised finishing system can lead to overweight pigs being sent to the abattoir by not identifying the pigs early enough; this is costly in terms of revenue (see table below) and costs of production (COP)
  • Weigh all pigs, or certainly a few, to ‘get your eye in’ each week, and always check forward several weeks of production

Cost effect of grading profiles

Producer A

Producer B

Average carcase weight (kg)



Average P2 (mm)



% in top grade



Weight cost effect

0.01 p/kg – 0.01/pig

0.92 p/kg – 0.72/pig

Probe cost effect

0.29 p/kg – 0.23/pig

1.82 p/kg – 1.42/pig

Overall cost effect

0.30 p/kg – 0.70/pig

2.12 p/kg – 1.66/pig

Total value lost per 1000 pigs @ 83.5 kg deadweight (approx.)



Approx total value lost over 1 year (52 batches, i.e. 1000 pigs per week)



Selling your pigs

The number of pigs for sale is important; many smaller units have moved to batch production to haul larger loads of pigs at any one time, reducing transport costs.

Haulage costs will be less per pig if the lorry is full. However, you must consider your penalty rates, particularly for overweight pigs; it is important to focus on return versus cost of transport. For example, an articulated lorry with three decks can carry 200–220 pigs whether they are 66 kg deadweight or 83 kg deadweight. It is better to send 160 pigs where 85% are in the optimum box than 180, which may drag the average pigs in the optimum box down to 80%.

Within your contract specification, you need to aim for 85% of your pigs to be in the optimum box and it is advisable to discuss this with your marketing group or sales outlet. There is a point at which the saving from sending a full load will be greater than the cost benefit of sending a less variable load with fewer pigs.

It is a matter of balancing all these factors to provide the unit with the highest cost benefit. Start by weighing the pigs and understanding the parameters of the contract, haulage charge and space on farm.

Monitoring growth

The pigs that remain in the pen after the first draw need careful management, as they may respond with an improved growth rate and rapidly become overweight. Try to avoid mixing the remaining pigs to create space, as this may lead to slower growth, fighting and skin damage, which may incur penalties at the abattoir.

Liveweight considerations

  • Set your targets to achieve maximum return and do not sell pigs outside the contract weight range.
  • Consider the range of sale weights you want in each load, to allow you to manage the unit cost-effectively, e.g. accepted number of pigs in the lighter bands to accommodate pen end clearance and slower growing pigs and, importantly, the target number of pigs in the heavier end of the contract specification
  • Never accept an overweight pig as ‘OK’ – investigate why it is occurring to prevent future penalties

Other considerations

  • Read the slaughter return in detail; check the health report if the load was assessed and use the information to make management changes in conjunction with your nutritionist, vet and marketing group
  • If you join our Pig Health Scheme, you will receive reports on the prevalence and severity of 12 conditions, which you can use, to:
    • Provide a baseline of the current health status of your herd
    • Benchmark against other members of the scheme using aggregated and anonymised data
    • Monitor the effects of management changes on the health of pigs, such as feed or a vaccination programme change
    • Inform decisions around disease control with your vet

Illegible slap marks may result in you not getting paid for your pigs

Useful links

Pig Health Scheme Uniformity in finished pigs Killing-out percentage