Focus on sow productivity

Sow lifetime productivity can be defined as the total number of quality pigs a sow weans from the time she becomes breeding eligible until she is removed from the herd. Accordingly, the primary components of sow lifetime productivity are the duration sows remain productive in the herd and the viability and productivity of piglets prior to weaning.

In 2011 the National Pork Board began to conduct research with the goal of improving sow lifetime productivity by 30% in seven years. This equates to moving the industry average from 34 pigs per sow lifetime to 43. The decision to follow this line of research came from the 2010 Checkoff Research Task Force; a group comprised of pork producers and representatives from the allied industry that examined Checkoff’s role in industry research. The NPB program areas cooperating in this effort are Animal Science, Swine Health, Animal Welfare, Pork Safety Quality and Safety and Environment. This task force notes that sow lifetime productivity is a primary factor affecting the cost and efficiency of all phases of pig production. However, research in sow lifetime productivity is expensive, time-consuming and requires a large number of animals to be relevant to the industry. While many pork production companies conduct research in isolated areas of sow lifetime productivity, there is little publicly available data and the research that is being conducted does not take a systematic, coordinated approach to improving sow lifetime productivity.

The results from the initial research efforts are starting to accumulate and this Blueprint series represents the first opportunity to tell the story. Following is a listing of some of the Checkoff-funded research projects to date.

  • Evaluation of a physiological test for sow longevity
  • Development of strategies to improve sow productive lifetime
  • Reproductive performance and longevity in replacement gilts allowed different amounts of floor space during the nursery phase of rearing
  • Effects of preweaning factors on sow lifetime productivity
  • The impact of the timing of relocation of replacement gilts from pens to stalls on gilt fertility and sow longevity
  • Optimal dietary energy and protein for the development of gilts
  • Dietary effects on sow productivity to three parities
  • Impact of in utero heat stress on subsequent growth, composition and reproduction
  • Understanding the biology of seasonal infertility to develop mitigation strategies for swine

For additional information on these and other research projects, visit www.pork.org/research or contact Chris Hostetler

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