Farrowing rate is affected by three main variables – gilt or sow parity, semen source/quality and the technician doing the artificial insemination.
To improve farrowing rate and total pigs born, it is important to study your sow records. This column will take a closer look at the affect of female status/history at breeding, parity and the day of week that insemination took place. The data set used for this analysis is a composite of farms with excellent detailed records. This combination of farms has a 24.9 pigs weaned/mated female/year average and would rank in the upper 72 percentile in the Swine Management Services, LLC database.
The only way to improve reproductive performance in high-producing farms is through in-depth analyses of accurate records, to identify and address the weak areas.
Table 1 is broken down by female status and specific time periods (by week). For example, the type of female being mated is broken out by the day they return to heat, first service gilts, second service females (gilts and sows), and third service females (gilts and sows). The table shows the week bred and the groups farrowed (farrowing rate by status).
The average farrowing rate for this period is 88.2%, ranging from 84.5 to 91.6%. The sows bred 0-6 days after weaning had the highest farrowing rate – 91.2%. Sows bred 10 or more days after breeding were 6.9% lower than average. Note that the week of Jan. 16, the sows bred 10 or more days after weaning dropped to a low farrowing rate of 68.4%, but then rebounded to 90% the following week. This is the sort of data you should discuss with your breeding crew so you can try to figure out what caused such a dramatic swing. Also noteworthy, females repeating 1X and gilts repeating 1X (second service females) showed farrowing rates of 60.1% and 74.3%, respectively.
Table 2 shows farrowing rate by parity. Farrowing rate for Parity 0 (P0) females (gilts) was 84.9%, with weekly variation from 71.4 to 93.9%; P7+ female farrowing rate stood at 85.7%. To improve the overall farrowing rate of 88.2%, you’ll need to focus on the younger females, such as the gilts that make up 25-30% of all matings, in this example. Reviewing the data may suggest more AM/PM matings for gilts, which would lower the percentage of single matings and cover the shorter length of time gilts are normally in heat.
Table 3 is broken out by the day of week a female was inseminated. Looking at the day-of- the-week averages, you will see that sows bred on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays have lower farrowing rates, the lowest being Thursdays (82.4%) and the highest being Mondays and Saturdays (89.6%). This information can be used to schedule semen deliveries to ensure viable semen on all days of the week and to schedule the workload of insemination technicians to insure there is adequate time to do a quality job every day of the week.
Detailed breeding information can be used to fine-tune your standard operating procedures (SOP’s) for breeding protocols, such as skipping Day 1 after weaning, which female status and parity should be bred two or three times, whether afternoon heat checking would be beneficial, the length of time between AM and PM breeding, and, which females, by status and parity, do you breed first in the morning?
Overall improvement in farrowing rate can be accomplished by identifying the weak areas in your accurate and detailed records, then putting in place procedures to address the weak areas. A 4% improvement in gilt farrowing rate would improve the overall farrowing rate by 1% on these farms.
Key Performance Indicators
Tables 4 and 5 (below) provide 52-week and 13-week rolling averages for key performance indicators (KPI) of breeding herd performance. These tables reflect the most current quarterly data available and are presented with each column. The KPI’s can be used as general guidelines to measure the productivity of your herd compared to the top 10% and top 25% of farms, the average performance for all farms, and the bottom 25% of farms in the SMS database.
If you have questions or comments about these columns, or if you have a specific performance measurement that you would like to see benchmarked in our database, please address them to: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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Mark Rix and Ron Ketchem
Swine Management Services LLC