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Three and half years on (case study)

I visited a business recently that I have had the privilege to work with for the last three and a half years. This business has been developing its management strategy based on the principles of production output and cost management that I recommend in collaboration with their well known specialist pig vet and occasionally their nutritionists. The business is a continuous indoor site that has been running for at least 40 years. It is interesting to see the key figures at the start and the key figures today (in brackets): Farrowing Rate 78.7% (86.7%)...Return Serves 14.4% (6.2%)...Live born/Litter 12.2 (13.2)...Weaned/Litter 11.0 (12.0)...Average age (Parity) at Culling 4.8 (4.0)...Non-productive days/Litter 16.8 (11.2)...Litters/Sow/Year 2.31 (2.38) Pigs weaned/Sow/Year 25.46 (28.52).

The unit was probably a top third UK performer when I first visited and on my recent visit we were able to enjoy an increase in output of 3 pigs/sow/year over the last three and a half years. The UK increase over the last 23 years has been 1.52 so we have doubled this in almost one seventh of the time (for anyone who likes statistics).

There is of course much more to this . The business is building a strong foundation for the future informed by years of experience of not being able to get past that top third performance and push on. Today the unit has a 1 to 5 parity distribution instead of 1 to is about to start culling parity 5 sows that it bred and selected itself on a within herd genetic criss-cross programme using the same breeding company genetics it had used when purchasing F1 hybrid gilts. Selection pressure includes designating GP sows only at parity 3+ with no record of breeding failure and good mothering ability (weaning what they gave birth to). Culling decisions are beginning to be taken at the point of failure as part of the cost management strategy. I walked through that weeks farrowing room and witnessed litters of 12 to 14 pigs (the average was 12.7 due to wean) and litters that would record the target 100kg litter weight. It has taken courage for the owner and the manager to follow this strategy and patience to wait for results to become consistent as the challenge particularly of managing the gilt into a lifetime potential began to take root. Three and a half years ago gilt/parity 1 animals were weaning 11.1 pigs/litter today it is 12.1...they had a farrowing rate of 75.8% and today it is 90.6%. They were weaning 25.62 pigs/sow/year and today the figure is 29.97, that is 4.35 pigs/year more per gilt and parity 1 is 23+% of the herd population. That is the real driver for the long-term future. These animals are, in the main, not losing more than a one point condition score and those that do will be given a 'skipped heat' chance to recover.

The production team enjoy the levels of responsibility that a strong target strategy require and it has brought greater satisfaction to them in their work. The fine tuning will go on as we strive to hit the target of 32 pigs weaned/sow/year and reduce cost to a minimum.

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