Denmark is the most efficient pig producer of the world and farms achieve 35 weaned piglets per sow per year. At the Alltech Symposium in Lexington, Kentucky (USA) Gunner Sorensen of the Danish Pig Research Centre talked about the prerequisites to achieve this high number.
“We use a highly specialised production system and a unique breed, Danbred, which allows us to breed extremely high performing sows that produce many piglets,” Sorensen said.
“At the same time these sows have a very high feed utilisation compared to other countries. It is crucial that sows are capable of properly tending to the majority of the pigs,” he added.
According to Sorensen efficient productivity levels on sow farms depend on:
- Skilled and reliable staff who cooperate and act with care
- Uniform work procedures in the farrowing facility
- An adequate gilt population of a satisfactory quality
- A farrowing rate above 90
- Efficient management of sow body condition
- An animal welfare policy ensuring treatment of weak sows aiming at a culling rate below 5%.
15 pigs per litter
“Sows must be able to tend to more piglets per litter without jeopardising sow health,” Sorensen said.
He said that in a recent trial it was demonstrated that healthy sows are capable of handling 15 piglets per litter, without compromising the number of weaned piglets. As the number of piglets in the litter increases, the piglets can be supplemented with dry feed.
Management of sow body condition is of utmost importance and reduces feed use and the necessity to cull sows early. Body condition should be evaluated through the entire cycle and take place at farrowing, at weaning, at first gestation check and approximately at 70 days in gestation. As a result of the scores individual feed doses should be adjusted.
Digestion and transport of feed in the sow’s gastro-intestinal tract must function in a healthy manner, which requires a balanced diet.
“Otherwise sows might develop gastric changes such as pale and unthrifty pigs, black or dark faeces, failure to finish the feed and possible vomiting, or suboptimal performance,” Sorensen said.
Sorensen emphasised that the content of fibre and starch must be correct in the diet, and also that the feed must not be ground too fine. Finely ground feeds are the cause of stomach ulcers.
“Wheat is the feedstuff that has the greatest effect on gastric health and should be used with care,” he said.
Sorensen also noticed that limited water supply can also attribute to stomach ulcers, which is a management issue that is often overlooked.
It was found that piglets have different needs shortly after birth and a week later. Sorensen therefore said that a special “sow colostrum feed” would add to the liveability of the piglets and after approximately a week followed by a feed for the rest of the lactation period.