Does gilt performance dictate farm success?

February 9, 2015

6 Min Read
Does gilt performance dictate farm success?

We have written several articles on gilt performance. We looked back at an article published on Aug. 12, 2013, called “Evaluating Parity Benchmarking to Improve Performance” in that article we saw that farrowing rate of gilts correlated to farrowing rate for the whole farm. This goes back to gilt development and procedures for breeding gilts to optimum farrowing rate.

For this article we wanted to take another look at gilt performance so we selected four production numbers: percent repeat service, farrowing rate, total born per female farrowed, and wean to first service interval and then sorted the data by gilt or P1 female performance.

For the data set we selected 513 farms with 1,011,545 mated females. They had to be over at 20-plus pigs weaned per mated female per year. We took farms out that were start-ups, repopulations, did weaned sow skip heats and farms that do not breed repeats. In future articles we are going to look at farms that have stopped breeding repeat females and farms doing skip heats of weaned sows.

Chart 1 and Table 1 show the relationship of percent gilt repeat services to the total born per mated female per year and percent repeat services broken out by parity. The data is broken out by repeats less than 4%, 4 to 6%, 6 to 8%, 8 to 10%, 10 to 12%, 12 to 14%, 14 to 16% and greater than 16% repeats. The farms were sorted by percent repeats for P0 females. So the 48 farms at <=4% had percent repeats for P0 of 2.4%. As you see in Chart 1 the farms with higher percent repeats as P0 had higher repeats for most parities. Also in Table 1 you will see as percent repeats goes up the total born per mated female per year goes down from 34.42 to 31.48.

Chart 2 and Table 2 show relationship for farrowing rate by parity sorted by farrowing rate of P1 females. In Table 1 the data is broken out by farrowing rate with farms at >90-plus%, <=90%, <=88%, <=86%, <=84%, <=82%, <=80%, and <=78%. Data continues to shows farms with higher farrowing rate of P1 females carries over to the rest of the parities and shows improvement in total born per mated female per year. There were 74 farms with a farrowing rate of P1 at 90-plus% and 34.75 total born per mated female per year to 82 farms at <=78% farrowing rate at 31.02 total born per mated female per year.

To show the influence of total born of P1 females on the rest of the parities, we created Chart 3 and Table 3, Total Born/Female Farrowed. Data in Table 3 were broken down by pigs starting >14.0, down to <=11 pigs. Table 3 shows 70 farms of the 513 at >14.0 pigs stating with P1 at 14.60 pigs peaking at 16.07 pigs for P4 with all average of 15.30 pigs. There were five farms at <=11.0 pigs with P1 at only 10.62 pigs with parity average of only 11.87 pigs. That is a difference of 8.78 total born per mated female per year.

The last production number we looked in Chart 4 and Table 4 was wean to first service interval. Chart 4 shows a lot of variation in days for P1 females to cycle after weaning with farms at 13-plus days and less than five days. There is a nice drop as the sows get older but still a large spread in the days to cycle. Table 4 starts at farms <=5 days broken out by one-day increments with bottom at >11 days. Table 4 shows five farms with P1 females cycling a very low 4.7 days with the all average of 4.7 days. There were 83 farms with P1 average of >11 days with P1 females at a high of 13.2 days with all average of 8.5 days. As days for weaned sows dropped total born per mated female per year went from 31.88 to 35.00 pigs.

We were surprised to see so much variation in these four performance numbers based on the performance of P0/P1 females. What are the top farms doing to achieve these numbers? We have the privilege of working with some of these top farms. They have figured out that gilts drive the farm now and in the future. Most have invested in good genetics, have gilt-developing facilities on the farm or close by and have added labor to take care of the gilts from entry to breeding.

They make sure gilts have early boar exposure, record cycling dates of the gilts, if possible give them gestation crate exposure before breeding and only breed gilts when they are at 300-plus pounds of body weight. These farms are feeding sows in farrowing more aggressive and make sure weaned sows get extra feed from weaning to breeding. They monitor semen quality and are staffed with well-trained caring employees.

If your farm is not a top-producing farm it may be time to review how your farm handles gilts and make some investment in facilities, people and changes procedures to improve your farms performance.

SMS Production Index
Table 5 provides the 52-week rolling averages for 11 production numbers represented in the Swine Management Services Production Index. The numbers are separated by 90 to 100%, the 70 to 90%, the 50 to 70%, the 30 to 50% and the zero to 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 the new Farm Benchmarking database we now have more detailed information to share with the swine industry. If your farm would like to be part of the Farm Benchmarking database, or if you have suggestions on production areas to write articles about, please e-mail or call us. We enjoy being a part of the National Hog Farmer “Weekly Preview” team.

Previous Production Preview columns can be found at

If you have questions or comments about these columns, or if you have a specific performance measurement that you would like us to write about, please contact [email protected] or [email protected].

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