Modern gilt feeding methods – does it pay?

13-10-2008 | |
Gadd
John Gadd Topic: Pig Management

I have just completed analysing the farm records from some courageous breeders who bit the bullet several years ago and adopted the advice on upgrading their gilt feeding which appeared around 2004.

I have just completed analysing the farm records from some courageous breeders who bit the bullet several years ago and adopted the advice on upgrading their gilt feeding which appeared around 2004.

This was to move away from the conventional growers diet fed from final selection at 100 kg to final service at 135 kg and use a specially-formulated ‘gilt developer diet’.

Then to adopt a special ‘gilt lactation diet’ in that critical first lactation.

Some preferred to go carefully and just use the gilt lactation formula while others took a deep breath (because both uprated diets do cost more) and used both feeds. How did they get on?

Results
For those four farms adopting the whole procedure, on average…

Their feed cost per sow rose by 12% (inflation-compensated) and the extra cost of storage, bins etc., and labour another 5%. The benefits were bigger litter sizes – the number of piglets born alive, and their second litter fallaways reduced, i.e. they got bigger second litters.

This gave an average of 28% more income in the first year of the sow’s productive life (SPL). Thereafter, the SPL increased by a significant 1.9 litters – nearly 20 piglets weaned, and replacement costs reduced by 23%. All from an increased cost of 17%. The payback over the extra costs varied from 2:1 to 3.6:1 compared to the more conventional diets used before the upgrade.

Questions to pig nutritionists
This got me asking six pig nutritionists (one independent, one academic, and four company nutritionists) which system they would choose if push came to shove on the recent hike in feed cost. They all chose ‘the beefed up gilt lactation diet’ for preference and two remarked that for any first-litter sow who nevertheless looked shattered due to a big first litter/ or was later-weaned, then use it for her second lactation too, and even use a gilt developer diet in that second pregnancy. Interesting!

They could be right, as six other farms which just transferred to the gilt lactation diet alone got slightly less benefit (but not much less) for a cost increase of 5% less. I am sure we shall hear more of this as further results I know are in the pipeline come through.

Interpretation
So, my interpretation on where we’ve got to on this subject is…

Yes, many of us are now almost certainly out of date in the way we are feeding these new high-performance gilts.

Yes, it probably does address the global problem of the second litter fallaway.

Yes, the feeds are more expensive but nevertheless…

Yes, the potential long-term payback looks encouraging.

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