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Managing Now for Next Years Farrowing (Northern Hemisphere)

September is fast approaching and it signals the beginning of the most advantageous service period for pig producers corresponding with the high output period of the year January through to May. Better conception and greater numbers of pigs born can be achieved in this period. Like people it is perhaps easier to keep pigs warm than it is to keep them cool with the exception of outdoor production in the north east of Scotland and in prolonged periods of cold, if and when they occur further south.

Much research, analysis and effort goes into mitigating seasonal infertility that begins as early as April and can occur right into September. Farms that experience this, particularly in outdoor production, will report one and possibly two reasonably short periods of infertility at some point during this total period. It is different from farm to farm. Fundamental factors will be the number of sows with a history of service failure cycling in the vulnerable period(s), the extremes of temperature and the geography of the micro-climates experienced by each unit. Also the number of gilts available as replacements, higher gilt replacement often mitigates the infertility effect. However there is not a corresponding effort in terms of research and analysis to inform management in how to capitalize on the more advantageous period.

These are a few thoughts to help concentrate management practice during the coming months in the service area and beyond. Now is a good time to evaluate sow condition in the herd, bearing in mind appetites may have been depressed particularly in the gilts and sows lactating in August and September, these will be the first services going into the advantageous period. Pay attention to the body condition of the current lactating animals and the last 17 weeks’ worth of gestating animals. Get them fit and keep them fit. Nutritionists are there to help.

Water quality through the summer takes a hit, again particularly in the outdoors with the heat and females may well not be ‘flushing’ the reproductive end of their physiology to maintain maximum reproductive health. A chat with the vet about the possibility of this and the ways of ensuring maximum reproductive health is worthwhile. New straw can bring its problems as can new corn in feed, both can be tested and should be to ensure the minimum of disruption for the animals.

Much as it is my work to help producers to ‘flat-line’ as many KPI’s as possible at a high level of consistency we still have to work at ‘cashing in’ against the annual challenges of production. It is a busy period, outdoor producers are moving sites and everyone is straw carting, bio-security is vulnerable because of extra movement and pressure of time. The management of semen is paramount and can also be vulnerable under these pressures.

Pigs born from September to December services will be born January to May and finish to slaughter June to November.

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