13 November 1998

Breed-your-own gilts

BREEDING costs can be cut by 20% for producers with over 500 sows by breeding replacement gilts on-farm rather than relying on specialist multipliers.

Breeding company PIC suggests a 500-sow unit would need about 45 grandparents to satisfy its own demand for gilts. According to the companys UK general manager Steve Dunstan the system also offers an opportunity to improve health acclimatisation of gilts and greater control over replacement availability.

Ideally, maiden gilts should be separated at 30kg liveweight and fed an ad-lib gilt/rearing diet to ensure whole skeletal development, says Mr Dunstan. Breeding gilts will mature at 100kg liveweight between 160 and 180 days, compared with finisher pigs at 150-days-old.

"The system does require identification of individual gilts, a proper mating regime and close attention to management, but it offers a genuine opportunity to reduce production costs," he says.

Independent pig consultant Bernard Peet says larger producers should consider gilt multiplication as a means of reducing costs. However, smaller producers will have to continue using gilts from dedicated multiplication herds.

However, Cotswolds commercial manager Alan Bloor warns that expertise and a good recording system are essential otherwise potential benefits can be easily eroded.

About 17% of PICs UK customers multiply their own gilts, compared to 70% of US customers.