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Economics of Sow Lifetime Productivity

by 5m Editor
24 August 2011, at 9:45am

US - Even the best genetic solutions are enhanced by improving overall productivity starting with the breeding herd, according to PIC. While pigs weaned per sow per year (PSY) has been the primary efficiency measuring stick in sow farms, there's additional value to be obtained by examining productivity on the lifetime basis of the sow.

Why? Research shows sows are more productive from parity two through five (P2-P5). However, most farms are unable to take advantage of extended parities for a variety of reasons. Younger parity retention is the key.

Key Performance Indicators Related to Lifetime Production

The metrics used for lifetime production evaluation are (or should be) part of your current data set. Some may require a bit of digging to obtain.

Cull Rate - How frequently animals are dropped from your breeding herd may be based on age, performance, long wean to service interval, body condition, soundness or other health issues. PIC targets less than 44 per cent annually.

Annual Replacement Rate - Keeping this turnover indicator under 50 per cent means fewer P1's entering the herd.

Average Herd Age (parities) - AgriStat® says the top 25 per cent of operations average herd parity is 3.0. PIC recommends 3.5 to maximize presence of more mature sows and its higher productivity.

Average Age At Removal (parities) - Sound body condition and good management practices push this average to 4.5 in the top AgriStat® herds. We believe 5.0 average herd parity is achievable and provides the best economic return.

Parity Profile and Replacement Rate

To better understand the total economic values of lifetime production, several factors must be considered. Elements of parity profile include: sow removal rate, actual replacement rate, hog market price and feed cost. When measured in total, the true cost of P1 or P2 culls and replacements begins to emerge.

First, we know that gilts farrow lower birth weights and that P1 colostrum contains lower levels of immunity protection. Pre-weaning mortality (PWM) rates are also sharply higher. Data shows fully a third of herd PWM losses occur in gilt litters. Replacing that animal means bringing another gilt into production with the same limits to productivity. The added cost of the replacement means higher total expense for the weaned piglets. The long-term impact of lowering the annual replacement rate can be seen in the chart below.


Graph 1: Breeding group structure & annual replacement rate

Better protocols and management of gilt introduction while regulating the breeding herd to keep replacements at or near 45% annually dramatically extends the lifetime productivity of the overall herd. And more farrowing in the more productive P2-P5 range converts replacement cost to bottom line performance.

To help in your evaluation of parity management and resulting impact on profitability, PIC has developed the Parity Retention Control Tool which is MS Excel based and available upon request. This easy to use tool uses your input data and provides:
Retention rate by parity Average parity (age) of the herd Replacement rate Inventory (number and per cent) by parity Proportion of sows culled, dead, destroyed by parity. Find this free tool here. It can change the way you view and manage your breeding herd replacement programme.

Take Away

Litter size or PSY are good indicators but they don't take into consideration how much time the sow is an asset to produce pigs.

As long as parity structure is reasonable, there is no other single management change able to make such impact as retaining sows longer in the farm.

PIC sows have an advantage when full economy is considered. PIC females are able to stay in farms longer.

Adopt and spread the use of Sow Lifetime Production as key performance indicator.

The Parity Retention Control tool is a resource that PIC has for customers to help improve control over parity retention.