29 May 1998

Home gilts can be a bad idea

REARING home-bred replacement gilts could be fools gold unless producers are willing to invest in good quality boar semen and can rear replacement gilts in a low disease environment.

That warning comes from Signet pig consultant, Dan Morgan, who urges producers to remember gilts need a healthy start in life to ensure subsequent reproductive performance.

Pick only those gilts which appear visually fit and have grown well, adds Mr Morgan.

To do that, independent consultant, Peter Crichton, says producers must have access to good records. "Were looking for gilts that have come from prolific litters. Ideally their growth rates should be above 700g/day between 40-90kg liveweight, with a feed conversion ratio below 2.6."

But both consultants urge that to rear potential breeding gilts producers must not skimp on buying in semen. "You cant spend too much on a good boar," suggests Mr Crichton. "A boar can greatly influence performance, for example, by lowering backfat in herds which are having trouble grading."

Mr Morgan adds there shouldnt be a decline in the genetic merit of a herd by using home-bred replacement gilts. "Genetic progress should still be made by selecting the right boar."