Can the US reach 30 p/s/y? – part 3

13-01-2014 | | |
Steve Stitzlein, production supervisor at Heimerl Farms, Ltd. in Johnstown, Ohio, USA.
Steve Stitzlein, production supervisor at Heimerl Farms, Ltd. in Johnstown, Ohio, USA.

This is the final interview in this series done by Purina Animal Nutrition. In an attempt to discover if the US is capable of reaching 30 piglets per sow per year (p/s/y) they interviewed three industry experts to verify that the goal is attainable. This interview is with Steve Stitzlein, production supervisor at Heimerl Farms, Ltd. in Johnstown, Ohio, USA.

The number of full potential pigs a sow can produce per year is an indicator of a facility’s productivity and throughput power. The figure, demonstrated as pigs per sow per year (p/s/y), is a combination of the genetic progress of a herd, management focus and expertise of the employees, and sow nutrition and care provided through gestation and lactation.

Across the globe, there is large variation in p/s/y levels. Producers in the United States are currently aiming toward the goal of 30 p/s/y, with genetic capabilities of the U.S. swine herd nearing that level.

Nutrition companies in the United States have joined forces to help producers meet genetic capabilities through the Feeding for 30 programme. By means of discussions, forums and shared advice, Purina Animal Nutrition, Zinpro Corporation and DSM Nutritional Products are helping producers to improve sow productivity by increased attention to sow nutrition and management.

Producers involved in the program that have neared, achieved and maintained this level have done so by perfecting a combination of management factors. We recently sat down with managers of three successful U.S. swine operations to discuss their road to achieving their production goals.

Here, we share experiences and advice from Steve Stitzlein.

Q: Tell us a little about your operation and the work that you do.

A: Heimerl Farms is a family-owned operation in central Ohio. We own 7,500 sows and we also buy weaner pigs from another 11,000 sows, with a mix of commercial and multiplication genetics. Of those 18,000 sows, about 12,000 are in multiplication for Pig Improvement Company (PIC).

Q: What goal are you striving to achieve and what are your current production levels?

A: For the last quarter, the three farms that we operate have been at 28.7 p/s/y. These farms have all the PIC 3 female, which is a pure line. Of the 11,000 sows that we buy pigs from, there’s a 5,000 sow operation in PIC production at 29.5 p/s/y and the other two units are running at 30-plus p/s/y.

Q: How have you improved sow productivity in your facility?

A: Mainly, we pay attention to details. We make sure that all daily tasks are done well and that sows are properly cared for. We work with the employees to make sure we’re getting good matings on the sows in a timely manner, that day one pig care is followed and that sows and pigs have enough feed in front of them.

Q: What role does sow nutrition play in achieving the goal of 30 p/s/y?

A: It’s very important for us to keep our sows in the right condition and our ration helps us hit our goals. We go through and body condition score all sows monthly. Every four weeks, we adjust the feed based on the condition of the sow. We’ve learned that it’s very important for the sows to be in good shape when they come into farrowing so, when they nurse their litters, they don’t lose body condition.

Q: Tell us about your current sow ration.

A: Full-feeding in lactation has been one of our biggest improvements. Since we’ve put in a full-feeding system, we’ve seen our days to first service go down and our future production and parity numbers go up. For full-feeding, we use a high-energy, high-lysine diet to make sure each sow gets plenty of feed. We start the sows on a hand-feed for the first 2 or 3 days in lactation and, by day 4, they’re usually on full-feed. We have feeders set up so the sow can return to the feeder and eat as much as she wants throughout the day.

Q: What additional strategies do you implement to keep your sows productive and in the herd long-term?

A: Piglet care is also very important. In farrowing management, we have people that focus solely on taking care of the sows and people who focus on taking care of baby pigs. We towel-dry, use hot boxes and split-suckle the pigs. We also put a milk system in, so we can put extra pigs from the litter on the deck and feed them milk replacer. That helps us have fewer fall-outs and helps the sows maintain condition.

Read the other interviews in this series:

To learn more about the Feeding for 30® program, visit

Hoffelt For Pig Progress