BPEX blog

Monday, 28 April 2014

Gilt management is about not cutting corners

“Fine-tuning gilt management is the key to ‘the next level’” was the proclamation made to me by a pig producer recently and, to date, an improvement of up to 1.5 piglets born alive per litter has been achieved in this herd. The unit’s performance was recorded using a computerised system for individual gilt and sow records. It is the interrogation of records that allows producers to identify areas where performance can be improved and, as always, the more information recorded, the more useful that data set becomes.

As the number of gilts is between 20 to 25% of the herd at any one time, their contribution to the overall herd performance is very influential.  In this case, when analysing age of service and subsequent performance, it became apparent that gilts served over 250 days did not perform as well as younger gilts. 

How gilts were fed during the critical periods was reviewed so that, pre service, gilts are now flushed to maximise ovulation rate and, post service, the producer is avoiding over-feeding, to assist with implantation.

So, the moral of this particular (true) story is: 1. Keep individual sow and gilt records and make time to interrogate the data 2. Identify areas that are underperforming 3. Take advice and decide on actions to improve situation 4. Continue monitoring and evaluating.

On any farm, gilt management is about not cutting corners; the time you invest at this crucial stage will pay dividends in the long-term performance of your herd. BPEX is continuing to work with producers on gilt management as part of the Breed+3 programme to improve breeding herd performance. Click here for more information in our gilt management pack. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Tackling the perennial problem of seasonal infertility

We held a meeting on seasonal infertility at Bury St Edmunds last week where we outlined the results of a series of interventions carried out on farm. 

I was really pleased with how well attended our meeting was, with the audience providing some very useful and constructive feedback. A second is being held in the North of England on Tuesday, April 8. The meeting was attended by about 40 people covering producers, allied industry, nutritionists, feed companies and pharmaceutical firms so the whole industry was covered.

The interventions were:
  • Providing shade. Anecdotally it looks favourable and will be continued during the warmer months this year to provide enough information for conclusions to be drawn.
  • Ad –lib feeders. One important result was that body condition scoring proved to be successful and again this has continued on one unit and has been introduced into the quarterly vet visit
  • Feeding dextrose. Again the sample size is so far too small and this will be continuing. However, it did show an improvement in performance and more work will determine if this trend continues.
One of the speakers at the event was consultant Stephen Hall who said to know your FR% you must understand your reservice rate and how these animals are contributing to overall herd performance. And there was a good discussion on areas BPEX might like to look at next which included:
  • We must take the top farms from benchmarking records and understandhow they achieve the best levels of pre-weaning mortality
  • Summer lactation diets
  • Managing a gilt separately through to second farrowing
There were many very positive comments about the workshop as this is a problem from which the industry has always suffered. It is important to try to find ways of reducing the effects and improving efficiency which will have a direct effect on profitability.

For more information about the Northern workshop click here