MAX’ing Weaning Capacity with Key Success Factor: Solid Sow Performance - 1

Solid Sow Performance is influenced by three main factors: retention rate, sow productive lifetime and 'stayability'. In this article from Hypor, you can read José Angel Pedrido's expert vision on increasing profitability with focus on stayability.
calendar icon 26 September 2012
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Increase total system profitability with MAX'ing Capacity

It is Hypor's philosophy that focuses on the bottom line result, linking the factors that influence the entire pork value chain.

MAX'ing Capacity is divided into three pillars that cover the chain: Weaning Capacity, Finishing Capacity and Meat Capacity. For every pillar there are three key success factors with three articles each that concentrate on how to improve.

Stayability Contributes to Solid Sow Performance

Expert: José Ángel Pedrido
Job title: Product Manager
Experience: 16 years
Drive: With a technical base, playing in the sales team or in the production department, my goal is always the customer's satisfaction.
Life slogan: Carpe diem
Best achievement: Having the lead in the reopening of the Strategic Nucleus Farm Hypor in Cerro Rubio. Finishing the process of renovation and expansion meeting all the deadlines.
Future: More and more concentration of customers, demanding a higher level and more knowledge for the technicians, salesmen, etc.

Stayability is an important part of the Hypor breeding programme; it is defined as the probability a sow will stay in the herd and remain productive up to the fourth parity. An objective of most genetic selection programmes today is to maximise, as much as possible, the number of piglets that a sow is able to produce in her lifetime. This is an important part of maximising Weaning Capacity. Selection on stayability increases sow longevity; enough genetic variation exists for effective selection for longevity. In the Hypor selection programme, heritability is pegged at approximately 0.15. The main factors that influence a sow's longevity are: genetics, handling, environment, nutrition, health, gilt acclimatisation and adequate gilt development.

One of the main benefits of improving longevity is economic. There are two factors that determine sow lifetime production: the number of piglets weaned per parity and the number of parities a sow has before culling or death. The cost of a gilt should be covered by - and finally the profit is determined by - the number of piglets it weans over her productive life. A hyperprolific sow must stay in the herd for a minimum of three parities for a positive return1. Assuming a fixed number of piglets weaned per parity, increasing sow longevity by half a parity results in a 10 per cent improvement in total Weaning Capacity and a similar increase in profit. A sow that weans an average of 12 piglets for six parities (72 piglets in total) will wean, during her productive life, seven more piglets than a sow weaning an average of 13 piglets for only five parities (65 piglets).

What interferes with longevity is (involuntary) culling and the most common reasons are reproductive problems, locomotive problems, group housing and sow mortality. Feed intake is also a factor that should have your attention. In the coming paragraphs, the author explains why.

The number one reason for involuntary culling is reproductive problems. To reduce reproductive problems, proper handling of gilts is absolutely essential. Take a look at proper acclimatisation, puberty stimulation at early age, first mating no earlier than the second heat, weight at mating between 135 and 150kg and at least 180kg at farrowing, adequate levels of back fat and adequate nutrition during gestation2.

It all adds up to increasing Stayability

The second most frequent reason for involuntary culling is locomotive problems. Heritability for structure and feet and leg quality is high and an important part of the Hypor breeding programme. Good physical evaluation and proper selection of gilts to meet basic requirements is essential before starting their productive life on farm. In a study carried out on 5,077 Large White sows during four consecutive years, a clear correlation was observed between rear leg quality and sow reproductive life duration3. In the group with the best leg quality, 48 per cent of the sows remained in production two years after their first farrowing. In the group with intermediate leg quality, 32 per cent remained after two years. In the group with the worst leg quality, only 20 per cent remained in the farm after two years.

Third interference in longevity could be group housing. Beginning January 2013, the European Union has mandated that gestating sows be housed loose and in groups. This development has led to concerns of an increase in involuntary culling due to leg issues. Interestingly, Hypor clients with group gestation systems in Spain see annual replacement rates of 45 per cent and out of all involuntary culling, removals due to leg issues are only 7.8 per cent4.

Another factor linked to longevity is, of course, sow mortality. Sow mortality was 7.9 per cent in the US and 7.7 per cent in Canada in 2010, Denmark presented mortality levels of 15 per cent5. Hypor sow mortality in Spain in 2010 was four per cent for the top 20 per cent of farms and 4.4 per cent for all farms; most of this mortality was concentrated in the summer months under extreme high temperature6. In regions with more moderate climates, sow mortality rates on Hypor farms are significantly lower. With a fixed percentage of total replacement, for each one per cent increase in sow mortality rate, the cost of production for each piglet increases six to seven Euro-cents. In a farm with 15 per cent mortality compared to a mortality rate of five per cent results in a loss of production of about 10 per cent of total weaned pig production which represents an average increased cost of €2.65 per pig. Presently, sows are in gestation about 75 per cent of the time; losing a sow in gestation means losing the complete litter. A 10 per cent difference in the mortality rate could translate into added costs of more than €25 per farrowing.

Finally, there is a relationship between suboptimal feed intake and excessive fat loss during lactation with a decrease in Stayability. A 2006 study showed that for each increase of 900 grams of average daily feed intake during lactation, the probability that the sow will be culled before the next parity decreases 30 per cent7. The Hypor breeding programme simultaneously focuses on both increasing feed intake and improving lactation efficiency. The result is a productive sow able to eat sufficiently and convert efficiently feed into milk for top production.

Focusing on Stayability and therefore maximising sow longevity has significant economic benefits. An increase in profitability can be achieved through genetic improvement - selecting sows on improved Stayability - and management: taking care of proper gilt development, strict selection for leg quality in young replacement stock, providing sufficient vitamins and minerals to higher parity sows and managing sow lactation feed intake levels.

With a better longevity and a good insight in a Sow's Productive Lifetime, you can choose her Stayability, which again improves the Retention Rate of the complete herd.

Read Sow Productive Lifetime and Retention Rate online [click here]. It all contributes to Solid Sow Performance and MAX'ing your Capacity.


  1. Danish Pig Production 2007.
  2. Foxcroft G., Patterson J. and Beltranena E. 2006. Improvement of efficacy in replacement gilts management. II Latin American Swine Congress. Av. Tecnol. Porc. October 2006.
  3. Hypor Spain. 2010.
  4. Hypor Spain. 2011.
  5. PigCHAMP. 2011.
  6. Serenius T., Stalder K.J., Baas T.J., Mabry J.W., Goodwin R.N., Johnson R.K., Robison O.W., Tokach M. and Miller R.K. 2006. National Pork Producers Council Maternal Line National Genetic Evaluation Program: A comparison of sow longevity and trait associations with sow longevity. Journal Animal Science, 84:2590-2595.
  7. Stalder K.J., Lacy R.C., Cross T.L. and Conaster G.E. 2003. Financial impact of average parity of culled females in a breed-to-wean swine operation using replacement net present value analysis. Swine Health Production, 11:69-74.
  8. Tarrés J., Bidanel J.P., Hofer A. and Ducrocq V. 2006. Analysis of longevity and exterior traits on Large White sows in Switzerland. Journal Animal Science 2006, 84:2914-2924.


  1. Stalder, Lacy, Cross & Conaster, 2003
  2. Foxcroft, Patterson & Beltranena, 2006
  3. Tarrés, Bidanel, Hofer &Ducrocq, 2006
  4. Hypor Spain, 2010
  5. PigCHAMP, 2010; Danish Pig Production, 2007
  6. Hypor Spain, 2011
  7. Serenius et al., 2006

September 2012
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