Supply management

28 March 2015

Quality control in the breeding herd can benefit finishing herd productivity


There has been a marked improvement in sow productivity during the past five years, but have finishing herds matched these advances? Simon Guise, Rattlerow’s UK Sales Manager, offers some points to ponder…


With larger litter vigorous traits become more important.

Improved sow productivity is commendable, but is weaner quality as good as it could be?

BPEX results show the UK breeding herd is now averaging three more pigs weaned per sow per year than it was in 2009/10. Annual total weaned litter weight is also 20kgs heavier per sow. Better still, top ten per cent herds are currently weaning 210kgs worth of pigs per sow per year, which when scaled up as finishing potential, offers a significant boost to the tonnage of pigmeat leaving the farm.

Much of this production success has been achieved by continued genetic development, improvements to health management and better control of the production process, particularly in the breeding herd.
By comparison, finishing herds have noted some gains in performance, but more could be done to capitalise on the genetic potential for growth and feed conversion offered by today’s slaughter progeny.

Many factors influence finishing herd performance (environment, health, nutrition etc), but the quality of the pig supplied to a finishing farm also has an impact on overall outcome.

Numbers weaned per litter is important – it dictates output and generally speaking the more the better, but the size and quality of those weaners is of equal significance.

Worthy weaners?

A target weaned litter weight of 100kg is achievable, given the prolificacy potential and mothering ability of commercial damlines. But large litters tend to have a wider spread of birthweights and a higher number of smaller pigs, so variability between litter mates is likely. Scale that up to a collective weekly batch of weaners and size and conformation will usually be more wide-ranging and unpredictable. Also the actual numbers of small, medium and large pigs contained in each batch will be unpredictable and likely to vary from week to week. Consequently, the raw material supplied to the finishing enterprise (weaners) will always carry inconsistency.

Simon Guise.

Simon Guise.

“Producers should consider how litter variability might influence birthweight and what factors could be manipulated to reduce it.”



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