20 February 1998

Hands-on scoring prevents piglet loss

PRODUCERS must condition score sows by hand or risk higher piglet mortality, increased sow feed costs and poor fertility.

ADAS pig nutritionist Pauline Lee told the MAFF/ADAS Profit from Welfare roadshow that fat sows increase risk of lying on piglets. They also consume 5% more feed and take up to a week longer to return to heat.

Mrs Lee said traditional visual scoring doesnt always work in new group housing systems.

"A thin sow may be picked out, but unless scores of others are known, to what are we comparing her?" Accurate scoring relies on feeling fat cover on hips, along the backbone and either side of the tail using the stockmans palm.

Typically, at condition score (CS) 1 (poor) a sows back, hip and rib bones are prominent to the touch. At CS 2 (moderate) bones are felt without applying pressure. CS 3 (good) firm palm pressure is required. CS 4 (very good) bones felt with light finger pressure. At CS 5 bones are only felt with firm finger pressure.

However, correct condition score depends on stage in the productive cycle, explained Mrs Lee. "Condition is gained during pregnancy and lost after farrowing."

Typical scores should be CS 3 at farrowing; CS 2.5 at weaning; CS 3 at service; and a steady increase through pregnancy.

"Pregnancy allows the greatest opportunity to manage sow condition. Demand on energy reserves isnt as acute as between farrowing and weaning," she said.

Low scores at farrowing are difficult to correct before weaning – future litter size and weights are at risk, warned Mrs Lee. "Hold back sows a heat cycle to improve condition."

Energy, not protein, improves condition, she added. Therefore, a dry-sow ration (CP 13-14% and DE 13) is better than lactating rations (CP 18% and DE 13). &#42

Condition scoring will help prevent sows becoming overfat – which will increase risk of lying on piglets.

CONDITION SCORING TIPS

PRODUCERS must condition score sows by hand or risk higher piglet mortality, increased sow feed costs and poor fertility.

ADAS pig nutritionist Pauline Lee told the MAFF/ADAS Profit from Welfare roadshow that fat sows increase risk of lying on piglets. They also consume 5% more feed and take up to a week longer to return to heat.

Mrs Lee said traditional visual scoring doesnt always work in new group housing systems.

"A thin sow may be picked out, but unless scores of others are known, to what are we comparing her?" Accurate scoring relies on feeling fat cover on hips, along the backbone and either side of the tail using the stockmans palm.

Typically, at condition score (CS) 1 (poor) a sows back, hip and rib bones are prominent to the touch. At CS 2 (moderate) bones are felt without applying pressure. CS 3 (good) firm palm pressure is required. CS 4 (very good) bones felt with light finger pressure. At CS 5 bones are only felt with firm finger pressure.

However, correct condition score depends on stage in the productive cycle, explained Mrs Lee. "Condition is gained during pregnancy and lost after farrowing."

Typical scores should be CS 3 at farrowing; CS 2.5 at weaning; CS 3 at service; and a steady increase through pregnancy.

"Pregnancy allows the greatest opportunity to manage sow condition. Demand on energy reserves isnt as acute as between farrowing and weaning," she said.

Low scores at farrowing are difficult to correct before weaning – future litter size and weights are at risk, warned Mrs Lee. "Hold back sows a heat cycle to improve condition."

Energy, not protein, improves condition, she added. Therefore, a dry-sow ration (CP 13-14% and DE 13) is better than lactating rations (CP 18% and DE 13). &#42

&#8226 Adopt hands-on scoring.

&#8226 Relate to production cycle.

&#8226 Correct condition when in-pig.