1 October 1999

Better management will

cut unacceptable loss

IMPROVED herd management and stockmanship are needed to reduce current piglet losses. Average piglet losses through stillbirths and livebirth losses in UK herds are running at an unacceptable 7% and 11%, respectively.

This is because many producers are failing to implement efficient management systems, according to Peter English, of Aberdeen Universitys department of agriculture, speaking at last weeks World Veterinary Congress, in Lyon, France.

Most stillbirths were alive at the start of the birth process and reducing these losses is dependent on more efficient farrowing which can be achieved by ensuring cool conditions for the sow and caring stockmanship.

"The basic requirements of a new born piglet, to ensure its survival and sound healthy growth, are simple and well-defined. However, the major losses which occur soon after birth are from chilling – hypothermia, starvation and overlying, indicating there has been a serious failure to take existing knowledge and put it into practice in many units," warned Prof English.

Efficient producers were those applying more of the basic principles in all aspects of the production process, he said. Less efficient producers were probably just as familiar with those principles. But because of various limitations – most being self-imposed – they were failing to apply them and as a result, failed to maximise animal care and efficiency of production.

"Regarding hypothermia, which is the main cause of piglet deaths on most farms, piglets need to be born into an environment which takes account of their lower critical temperature – 34C – and of the continued high temperature requirements of those smaller, less competitive piglets, at least in their first two days.

"At the same time, sows should not be exposed to conditions in excess of their lower critical temperature – 16C-20C – to ensure efficient parturition and stimulate their appetite and milk production.

"Then there are the more vulnerable piglets within every litter, especially those large litters from hyperprolific sows, which in the first few hours of life depend on skilled stockmanship for survival – prompt, skilful fostering and other appropriate intensive care strategies," said Prof English.

"In pig breeding herds in every region and every country, there is an extremely wide range in live births/litter, piglet survival and growth, breeding regularity, efficiency and profitability.

"Higher efficiency is first achieved by making sure a sound system is in place. Afterwards, skilled dedicated stock people need to pay attention to the many details in crucial areas of the production process," he added.

Pig production was never before in such a critical state in the UK. The only way for producers to stay in business was to become ultra efficient, as well as the government removing the effects of serious competitive disadvantages, he warned. &#42

PIGPRODUCTION

&#8226 Must reduce piglet losses.

&#8226 Efficient management vital.

&#8226 Good stockmanship needed.