Cut variability to optimise growth

UK - To optimise growth, and therefore profit, pig producers should adjust their management to reduce variability among their growers and finishers, Ed Sutcliffe, technical director of pig-breeding company ACMC told a National Pig Association meeting at Beverley, East Yorkshire.
calendar icon 6 December 2006
clock icon 3 minute read
Among his key management tips were weighing a sample of pigs each week throughout the growing period to identify problem areas.

"Many farmers don't really know how their pigs are growing. They may, perhaps, know weaning weight and the final weight when they leave the farm," he said. "Measuring a handful of pigs from each weekly group can show up bottle-necks in production where growth is checked or even slows down to a stop. This can highlight areas needing attention, such as when pigs move pens or houses, or when dietary changes are made.

But choice of genetics also had a big influence. Pig producers should ask themselves if they were minimising the number of genetic strains used. Mr Sutcliffe advised against using a mixture of breeds. Some farmers were using more than two types of female and crossbred or synthetic sire-lines, which generally leads to variation in the progeny.

In particular, 'maternal potential' among slaughter generation homebred gilts would be less good and this would have an effect on their litters, leading to variable weaning weights. "It's vital to minimise variation at weaning. The largest and smallest pigs will have different nutritional needs and if these needs are not adequately met uniform growth will inevitably be compromised."

If using natural service, Mr Sutcliffe advised using one type of sire-line, but suggested a better approach was to use a higher percentage of AI. This would not only reduce variability, but would enable producers to maximise the potential for optimised growth.
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