After a change in the breeding goal in June 2022, where 2 new traits for piglet survival were included, the results have already manifested in the production herds. Jesper Tambour, a pig producer from Denmark, is delighted to produce even more vital piglets, as this results in easier care and increased survival.
There is no doubt that breeding for higher piglet survival contributes positively to pig production. Strong, vital piglets contribute to greater animal welfare, easier care, and increased production efficiency.
The new trait for piglet survival in DanBred’s breeding goal includes the piglet’s own genetic potential to survive, and this plays a crucial role in how effective this new trait will be. Production herds in Denmark can already see improved piglet survival, and DanBred expects the same remarkable improvement worldwide.
One of the farmers who has noticed a difference in the farrowing unit is pig producer Jesper Tambour from Guldborg in Denmark where they have 1,070 sows and sell the pigs at weaning. From the beginning of February until May this year, they have noticed a significant improvement in piglet survival. In actual results, piglet survival has increased from 87.5% to 90%.
“We see that the piglets are quicker to find the teat after birth and that there are fewer piglets that need support from us to survive the first days in the farrowing unit,” says Tambour, adding, “Both results and job satisfaction have improved because of the pigs getting even more robust.”
A high survival rate among piglets cannot be achieved by genetics alone. It also requires good management and focusing on the sow’s ability to care for her piglets. They value this highly in Tambour’s herd. “We have a special focus on the sow’s milk yield by paying attention to what we feed our sows,” he says.
The sub-index for piglet survival in the DanBred Duroc has already improved by 2 percentage points, and that is based on the pig’s own genetic progress. This means that the Duroc boars that are in the breeding herds and on Danish AI stations right now are 2% better at piglet survival than the boars that were there in the spring of 2022.
Duroc boars only contribute half the genes needed to produce a DanBred finisher pig, but the progress in piglet survival has also manifested through the female breeds, the DanBred Landrace and DanBred Yorkshire. Although progress on the female side is moving a bit slower, as more females are replaced in herds, it expected to see the trait even more pronounced in production.
“It’s pretty crazy that we can see this progress already. We only expected to see half of this within the first year,” says Tage Ostersen, head of the Department in Breeding & Genetics, Danish Agriculture & Food Council.
The focus of the changed breeding goal is to improve both the sow’s and the piglet’s genetic level of piglet survival.
“Last year, we chose to change the breeding goal with new traits that put even more pressure on piglet survival. What we expect to see the effect of now is especially that the piglet’s own genetic potential manifests. This has given the overall breeding goal more focus on robustness, which benefits the piglets,” says Ostersen.
Ostersen also points out that breeding will ensure continued favourable development in the coming years, although at a slightly more moderate pace in the longer term.
“So, while we can be pleased with the good results now, we can also be pleased that they will be permanent.”