Does gilt total born predict future farm performance?

Total born is not as strong of an indicator as gilt farrowing rate, but it is still a very good indicator.

Ron Ketchem, Mark Rix

December 31, 2019

5 Min Read
Does gilt total born predict future farm performance?
National Pork Board

Just like last month the short answer is yes. Gilt total born is one of the key performance indicators for total farm performance. Why do we look at total born and not live born? All of the work we have done over the last several years has shown us that most stillborns can be saved by making some changes in management especially extending farrowing hour and having someone attending more sows farrowing. 

Last month we looked at gilt farrowing rate as a predictor of future farm performance. It was a very good indicator of future farm performance. Also gilt performance for total born is a good indicator, but not as good as farrowing rate.

We picked 588 farms with 1.110 million mated females in inventory. The farms had to be over 22 pigs weaned per mated female per year and the farms had to have farrowed through Parity 5 so we could look at retention. 

Table 1 shows the performance of all of the farms broke out by the Top 10%, the 10-30%, the 30-50%, 50-70% and the 70-100%. Remember that each breakout are averages for farms in that line, so Top 10% had total born average for all farms at 15.92. The farms ranged from 33.85 pigs weaned per mated female per year to 22.06 pigs weaned per mated female per year, with an average of 27.63. Total born ranged from 12.03 to 18.33 with an average of 15.09.


Chart 1 compares the gilt total born to the farm's pigs weaned per mated female per year. There is a lot of variation, but the trend line has a direct correlation to gilt total born. This it the same correlation we saw last month with the gilt farrowing rate. Both are very good indicators of future farm performance. Total born is not as strong of an indicator as gilt farrowing rate, but it is still a very good indicator.


Chart 2 shows the importance of developing gilts properly, this includes proper diets, age, weight, crate breaking, recorded heat no services, boar exposure, flushing, selection for structural soundness, etc., to maximize gilt total born. The farms were summarized by gilt total born in half pig increments. Gilt total born directly affects lifetime performance as shown in Table 2. If a farm is dealing with a low total born making changes in gilt development is a long-term program, taking two to three years to get the maximum effect. 


Table 2 summarized total born through 5 parities showing potential lifetime performance and also showing the minimum and maximum in each breakdown. The top 21 farms averaged 87.70 total born through 5 parities while the bottom 66 farms averaged 69.96 total born through 5 parities for a difference of 14.74 pigs or almost 3 pigs per parity. We also summarized the minimum, maximum and range for each breakdown. The range is very large within each breakdown going from 12.39 pig's variation for the 14.00 pig's breakdown to 14.59 to 17.87 pigs for the 13.50-13.99 pig breakdown.


Chart 3 shows gilt total born is not a good indicator for farrowing rate as the trend line is flat at all levels of gilt total born. 


Chart 4 compares gilt total born to the farm's wean-to-first service interval. As gilt total born goes up wean-to-first service interval goes down. This make sense as the trend we have seen on farms with better gilt development, lactation feeding and extra feed from weaning to breeding have had a downward trend in wean-to-first service interval for the last several years.


Chart 5 looks at gilt total born compared to retention to parity 4. The Swine Management Services' retention calculations looks at the females that farrowed as Parity 1 and stay in herd through Parity 4. This ignores the gilt fall-out because of the when farms enter their gilts, some farms enter gilts as early as 90 days pre-breeding and most farms enter gilts at breeding time. As total born goes up the retention rate goes down. 


Where is your farm at on gilt development? As was mentioned in the last two articles, gilts are the key.  

Table 3 provides the 52-week rolling averages for 11 production numbers represented in the SMS Production Index. The numbers are separated by 90-100%, the 70-90%, the 50-70%, the 30-50% and the 0-30% groups. We also included the 13-week, 26 week and 12 quarter averages. These numbers represent what we feel are the key production numbers to look at to evaluate the farm's performance.


At SMS, our mission statement is to provide "Information solutions for the swine industry." We feel with the creation of different SMS Benchmarking databases for all production areas we now have more detailed information to share with the swine industry. If your farm would like to be part of the SMS Benchmarking databases, or if you have suggestions on production areas for us to write columns about, contact Mark Rix or Ron Ketchem. We enjoy being a part of the NHF Daily team. Previous columns can be found at

Sources: Ron Ketchem and Mark Rix, Swine Management Services, who are solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly own the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

About the Author(s)

Ron Ketchem

Swine Management Services

Mark Rix

Swine Management Services LLC

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