Lactating Gilt Management a Possible Solution for Some
I have witnessed something in outdoor production that I think could provide a solution to some pig producers particularly in outdoor production. I feel it is worth recounting. It concerns the management of farrowed gilts in their (first) lactation. I have seen groups of 8 gilts multi-suckling in tents with a run at the front, this is a similar set up as for outdoor reared weaners’ first stage. They have ample water supply, in this case a plastic drum with nipples for piglets as well. They have an ad-lib feeder and deep straw bedding. Each group of 8 gilts has approximately 90 pigs suckling. The gilts went into farrowing with a BCS of 3.5 to 4 and are maintaining condition well throughout lactation. They are grouped at 10 days after farrowing. The piglets are eating from the sows ad-lib feeder and drinking quite soon after grouping. At weaning the gilts are taken away and the pigs then easily run into a trailer. There could be a case for leaving them there and making a simple transformation of the tent/run into first stage weaner accommodation. The results at this stage are anecdotal but strong. Gilts weaned in good condition and (I believe) further on in (breeding) recovery than conventional single paddock animals. The piglets are virtually all transitioned, eating and drinking and pre-weaning mortality% in this environment is very low.
The second parity drop phenomenon is wide spread in the industry and many are beginning to address this issue which is one of how to push the lactating gilt to establish her with life time vigour (or lose her in terms of potential output) and yet retain her condition and support her recovery. I think the multi-suckling option offers some producers an alternative solution.
I will be gathering cohort data to compare with the conventional results on the same unit to verify the anecdotal evidence.
In terms of a full herd practice of multi-suckling groups of graded sows (they would have to be from the same gestation cohort and social group)…in tent/run setups that double as first stage accommodation at weaning is possibly worth considering also with sexing of progeny at second stage move.