12 June 1998

Dont hold on to cull sows too long

TRY to resist the temptation to hold on to cull sows, despite prices being so low, says Signet pig consultant Dan Morgan

"It is a mistake to go much beyond the typical herd culling age.

"Retaining sows which otherwise would be culled creates management difficulties and reduces performance in the long-term," explains Newark-based Mr Morgan.

He recognises that his recommendation must be balanced against business considerations. "When the cash flow is negative it just might be best to reduce purchases of gilts and overall borrowings. But remember herd replacement costs are a fairly low percentage of total costs and so this policy will not have a huge financial impact."

And although keeping sows for longer and cancelling gilts may be sustainable for up to six months, it is unlikely to be worthwhile in the long-term due to management disruption and reduced performance. But steps can be taken to cut involuntary cull rates, he adds. "Low protein dry sow diets which keep sows at the right weight and condition – preventing them becoming too fat, too young – will help prevent performance falling at the fourth or fifth litter."

He also points to a rise in culling due to leg difficulties, caused, he suggests, by an interaction between genetics, environment and flooring. Some units have, for example, concrete-grooved muck passages to reduce risk of injury by slipping. &#42