Improve breeding herd retention

Improving breeding management practices leads to reduced culling and mortality rates and improves sow longevity.

Pork producers routinely review their management practices and implement change to enhance efficiency of production, which improves their sustainability in the pork industry. Improving breeding female retention will increase sow longevity and improve sow productivity per sow lifetime. This will lower breeding herd cost per pig produced and improve efficiency of production. To improve breeding female retention, producers should be aware of those times in which females are most vulnerable to conditions that could lead to removal from the herd. 

Sow culling typically happens at approximately 60 days after farrowing while mortality rates are highest within 14 days and 55 days after farrowing. Culling at 60 days after farrowing may indicate that sows are typically re-bred if they recycle after mating post-weaning. Mortality occurrence within 14 and 55 days after farrowing may be due to different conditions. Farms should review their gestation and farrowing management practices so to improve sow care and comfort to reduce the risk of mortality immediately after farrowing. Sow condition during gestation should be monitored so that sows are neither too thin nor too fat at the time of farrowing. In the summer, sows should be cooled as needed and in the winter farrowing room ambient temperature should be optimized for sow comfort. Farrowing intervention strategies should also be reviewed so that sows are appropriately cared for. Sow mortality occurring 55 days after farrowing, may be due to sows that were in poor body condition or health at weaning and health intervention strategies implemented post-weaning. If this is the case, health management practices and feeding strategies should be reviewed to improve sow wellbeing at and after weaning. 

Retaining breeding females in the herd longer can improve sow herd productivity and potentially reduce breeding herd costs per pig produced. Pork producers should determine when sows are typically culled or when mortality occurs. At those times of highest incidence of culling and mortality management practices should be reviewed and revised to reduce the incidence of culling and mortality. Pork producers wanting further information on this topic should refer to the MSU Pork Quarterly Vol 13. Issue 4.

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