Have We Really Improved Sow Longevity and Lifetime Performance?
TO IMPROVE ON LIFETIME PERFORMANCE WE MUST FOCUS ON ALL ASPECTS TO HELP IMPROVE THE LONGEVITY OF OUR HERDS.
By Sasha Gibson, Fairmont Veterinary Clinic & Jayne Jackson, PigCHAMP
The length of adult sow life (longevity) is now recognized as both an economic and a welfare concern to our industry.
Sow longevity is often discussed with relation to gilt development and retention. Foxcroft stated that gilt entry was one of the most critical factors driving sow longevity. (Foxcroft et al., 2006). Over the last six years there has been more emphasis on gilt development, with the implementation of buildings specifically for the growing gilt, diets formulated for lifetime performance and labor trained to specifically work with the gilts.
Sow longevity can be defined several ways; (Knauer et al.,2010) used the stay ability to parity 4 (STAY4), others have used parity at removal, days in the herd at removal and lifetime pigs weaned. (Patterson et al., 2011).
In a data set sourced from PigCHAMP Knowledge Center Database, removal records were reviewed to identify what if any changes have occurred to sow longevity and productivity since 2001. When we consider female loss as key factor on the effects of sow longevity; we know that different sow herds at different sow size and genetics can be compared; this makes the sow loss analysis a highly comparable result to use within our industry as a benchmark.
Using a dataset that represented 1,833,771 removed females/sows over a 10 year period of time we analyzed key industry factors such as parity and state at removal, lactation length and lifetime performance.
By managing lactation length over the past 10 years we have made a significant impact on overall production. Lactation length of the sows at removal increased over time. From 2001–2010 there was a 2.2 day increase in lactation length (Graph 1). History shows that when lactation length is managed we are able to decrease wean to first service intervals and increase our total born production.
GRAPH 1: AVERAGE LACATION LENGTH AT REMOVAL
The pigs weaned per lifetime within the industry, is lower than the scientific community would suggest is possible and optimal. Pigs weaned per lifetime decreased from 2003–2008 (Table 1). However, in 2009–2010 there was a large improvement in the pigs weaned per lifetime.
TABLE 1: AVERAGE PIGS WEANED PER LIFETIME YEAR AVERAGE PIGS WEANED PER LIFETIME
(Table 2) shows the average age at culling and the average cycle at culling. The closer the parity and cycle numbers are to each other the less returns to estrus as rebred events have occurred with the population that was removed.
TABLE 2: AVERAGE PARITY AND CYCLE OF FEMALES AT REMOVAL FROM THE SOW HERD YEAR AVERAGE PARITY AVERAGE CYCLE DIFFERENCE
This data set shows that on average sows are culled without producing 40 pigs per lifetime, at an average parity of 3.5. (Graph 2) Hoge reminds us that pigs weaned per lifetime is now recognized as both an economic and welfare indicator, and that there is not one consistent definition to measure sow longevity. (Hoge et al., 2011 ). Welfare as expressed by death rate, or average age at sale is a measurable outcome that may be used to evaluate how the industry is performing in the future.
GRAPH 2: LIFETIME WEANED PIGS AND PARITY AT REMOVAL
The percentage of removal rate for sows that aborted prior to their removal have been fairly stable across the years for all parities however there has been a slight increase in 2009-2010 over the past years to 3.7% (Graph 3). When isolating just the parity 1 sows the removal rate for sows in an aborted state has jumped in the past 2 years from 2.7% in 2007-2008 to 4.8 % in 2009-2010. Focusing on acclimatization for the gilts is a priority to keep the abort rate stable.
GRAPH 3: REMOVAL RATE FOR ABORTED FEMALES 2001 - 2010
Maiden gilts removed as a percent of all removals (Graph 4) was 7.9%. This number is the percent of gilts that never cycle or are inseminated. From 2001–2010 18% of all removals were gilts (including maiden gilts). This indicates that there is improvement opportunity. While the number of gilts with a heat no service event recorded has increased, the percentage of gilts that remains non-bred is stable at 7-8%.
GRAPH 4: MAIDEN GILT REMOVAL RATE 2001 - 2010
The data showed that Parity 1 sows had an average of 15% fall out over the ten years. With performance management that focuses on the gilt this number can and should be improved. To improve on lifetime performance we must focus on all aspects to help improve the longevity of our herds. Sow longevity is touched by many production practices including health stability, skilled production crews, genetics (leg structure), gilt development and nutrition.
Recently a collaborative of scientists have worked together (Boddicker et al, 2011) to understand the relationships between Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL) Analysis and Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus challenge. They have identified genes such as the SSC4 that will help to select animals that have the ability to resist or handle PRRS better than others.
Skilled production crews are vital to influencing longevity of the sows. Death loss is a measurable that directly affects longevity. These teams generally have s years of accumulated pig knowledge, stability within working with each other, and engagement in continued learning. Fifty pigs weaned per lifetime is a possibility for our farms, as suggested by the scientific community. This goal will happen as more focus is placed on welfare and economics within the swine industry itself. We can and will improve and data derived from the farms will show us the way.
- Hoge MD, Bates RO,. 2011. Developmental factors that influence sow longevity. Journal of Animal Science Apr;89(4) 1238-45.
- Foxcroft et al, 2006. Research, techniques, and economics of gilt development. AASV Pre-conference Seminar #4, Gilt Development P1-14.
- Knauer, M, Stalder KJ, Serenius T, Baas, TJ, Berger, PJ, Karriker L, Goodwin RN, Johnson ‘RK, Mabry JW, Miller RK, Robison OW, Tokach MD. 2010. Factors associated with sow stayability in 6 genotypes. Journal of Animal Science, Nov;88(11):3486-6-92.
- Patterson J, Foxcroft G, Kummer R. 2011. University of Alberta-University of Minnesota reproduction workshop: Bringing value to pork production systems – obstacles and opportunities. Allen D Leman Swine Conference, Managing gilt development programs for lifetime performance P-9.
- PigCHAMP. http://www.pigchamp.com/products/benchmarking.aspx accessed November 2011.
Sasha Gibson, HND, is with the Fairmont Veterinary Clinic, Fairmont, Minn.; Jayne Jackson is product manager at PigCHAMP; Ames Iowa.