Rattlerow featured prominently in BPEX’s series of Breed +3 winter workshops. Robin Brice, Production Director, and John Theobold, outdoor production manager received rave reviews for their informative and practical discussions about how they were optimising sow productivity with their herds. Balanced selection, attention to detail and recognising that today’s genotypes required skilled management that supported their potential for prolific performance, both indoors and out, were keenly debated. Both producers at the meeting and those sponsoring the event said the content was thought provoking, and practical with some very valid take home messages.

RobinBrice-DissRobin Brice (pictured) said that 30 pigs weaned was within reach for most herds with 40 pigs weaned per sow per year a real possibility when you consider the genetic advances being made through balanced selection programmes.
“The potential already on offer from modern dam lines could yield 39.7 pigs weaned if producers learned to maximise productivity and reduce loss at every stage of the reproductive cycle. History shows improvements can be made in very little time and a more finite understanding of the genetic potential currently available and how we can harness it could significantly lift sow productivity on many farms,” he said.

He talked the audience through the breeding cycle, explaining where production losses occur from ovulation through to weaning. “Sows shed approximately 36 ova per oestrus and if 80% are fertile, then this leaves a possible 28.8 potential embryos. Take out 40% for embryonic/foetal death and there is a potential born 18.4 piglets. If you them assume 17.3 are born alive and 15.9 are eventually weaned, then with an optimum farrowing interval at 2.5 year, then 39.79 pigs weaned per sow per year could be possible now,” he added.

Indoor units should be aiming for these figures and a target of 30 pigs per sow per year is a very realistic target, because in theory, there are 9 more pigs to be gained from here.
“We should be able to get 30 pigs now if sows are in prime condition and managed well as gilts and throughout their productive lives,” he said. Robin’s own herd is weaning.

JohnTheobold-DissJohn TheoboldJohn (photo right) looked at how Rattlerow managed their four outdoor herds. All follow a three-week batch system weaning at 28 days of age and have a standard management routine. AI is a fine-tuned operation and given much investment, in both time and resources. Hygiene, observations and timing are top priorities and two of the units are now using Breeding Buddies with inseminations, which maintain back pressure throughout the mating procedure. It seems to benefit stimulation and reproductive responses and farrowing rates appear to have improved in the herd that are using this equipment.

Nutrition is pivotal to sow productivity outdoors as sows must milk well and produce plenty of colostrum if piglets are to survive and thrive – it’s also vital in maintaining body condition. And condition is the key to productivity.

Stockmen are trained to understand condition scores, to know what is acceptable and how to maintain it throughout the production cycle. Get it right and target productivity will be easier to achieve, said John.

His discussion was packed with practical advice, applicable to all outdoor herds including information about the use of feeding troughs versus ground feeding, preserving site quality and maintenance

Videos of these presentations and more information from BPEX Breed +3 workshops can be found at: http://www.bpex.org.uk/events/conferences/Producer/