24 May 1996

Under-serving cause of most lost production

REDUCING pre-weaning mortality starts in the service area by ensuring sufficient sows are served to maintain farrowing rates.

"Under-serving is the biggest cause of lost production," said John Carr of the Garth Vet Group, East Yorks, speaking on piglet survival. Each 250-sow unit running 50 farrowing crates should aim to wean 70kg a crate every five weeks. One sow not farrowing is a crate not filled and 10 piglets not born. "That is a 10% pre-weaning mortality from the start," he said.

In the piglets first 48 hours maximising colostrum intake was the priority. "Nearly 60% of piglets die hungry in this time.

"Few producers allow sows to achieve their potential for milk production, leaving under-nourished piglets. Insufficient water in farrowing houses will devastate milk supply." Under-feeding the lactating sow would cut weaning weights and extend the weaning-to-service interval. Poor control of dry sow nutrition also reduced piglet birth weights and had the knock-on effect of depressing appetite in the farrowing house.

But the number-one reason for piglet losses pre-weaning was chilling. "Farrowing houses must not have draughts," said Mr Carr. He advised keeping sows at 16-18C (61-64F) and piglets at 30C (86F). Hygiene must also be good. "All-in, all-out accommodation means all-in, all-out," he said.

John Carr:"Under-serving is the biggest cause of lost production."