Farmer Focus: Data flags need to up farrowing weight

It has been a challenging start to Ed’s first spring on the arable side here with such limited opportunity to get on the land.

The idea behind hiring Ed to manage the arable and contracting work for me was to get me off the tractors to make more money working on the business, analysing figures and developing other enterprises.

However, he has been able to get some contract spreading done, and he is also up to date with spraying and fertiliser, although the weather has been wet and challenging.

See also: 3 ways pig farmer is using data to improve herd performance

About the author

Jack Bosworth
Livestock Farmer Focus writer Essex pig farmer Jack Bosworth farms 263ha of arable and a 540-sow farrow-to-finish operation in partnership with his family. About 60% of pigs are finished at home and 150 are sent to a farm in Norfolk to finish on a bed and breakfast contract.
Read more articles by Jack Bosworth

Alex, who has been working for us since 1996, and Gemma, who joined in September last year, have been taking a keen interest in getting the data from the pig weight gains to analyse our current position.

They are asking questions about how we can enhance performance.

We need to ask how to better equip young breeding stock for consistency and longevity in our herd.

We have a target service weight and age of 160kg and 254 days, respectively.

We aim to achieve about 70kg of liveweight gain during gestation, making a target weight of 230kg when they transition into farrowing.

Allowable loss of body condition, excluding litter weight and placenta (20-25kg), should be about 6-8%, but we are above this.

Gilts weaned on 14 March 2023 averaged 215kg going into farrowing, making them about 6.5% under our target weight.

Weight at this next weaning was an average of 164kg, making a bodyweight loss of 13.73%, excluding average litter and placenta weight.

Our current feed plan for gilts during gestation is set to give about 2kg for the first week after insemination. We then slowly increase this by 35% until day 50.

The period between day 50 and day 100 is the height of the feed rate curve, with a peak of 3.1kg.

This is before the final stretch, when we move them into farrowing accommodation at 3kg. After this point, feed rate is adjusted according to body condition score, which is currently decided by Alex and Gemma.

Hopefully, some tweaks to the feed plan will allow us to increase weight at farrowing, with the aim to both improve litter size and reduce body condition loss.