26 June 1998

Save with good milkers

SAVINGS in feed of about £2/finished pig could be achieved by only breeding from sows with good milking ability and which consistently produce litters that achieve higher growth and weights at weaning.

According to consultant geneticist Rex Walters of Premier Genetics, which is starting to use the selection parameter, early growth and weaning weight has a profound effect on the subsequent performance of pigs through to finishing.

But identifying which sows produce litters with higher weaning weights has proved complicated.

"The difference in weaning age and changes in piglet numbers due to cross fostering has to be taken into account," says Dr Walters. In a joint study with reasearch organisation PIGBLUP Australia, data has been collated from tens of thousands of litters to identify which sows perform best.

"We can achieve a 3% increase in average weaned litter weight per year by identifying which sows have higher weaning weights and breeding from them," he says.

Heritability of higher litter weaning weight is greater than anticipated, calculated at 20% – double that of litter size.