Farmer Focus: Solution to sow conception struggle

We have consistently struggled to achieve an acceptable conception rate (90%), especially with our second-litter sows.

We have tried feeding extra food in farrowing, decreasing the number suckling, and giving additional contact with the boars – and the opposite.

But I have always suspected that what we need to do is take them out of production for three weeks to allow time for recovery from the strains of the first litter.

The only issue has been where to house these animals during this period.

Until this week I couldn’t see a solution. But as a result of some of the alterations we have been carrying out, the light bulb came on – and now all I need to do is find the additional gilts to maintain the service levels.

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In addition, we are also installing service stalls in the mating area to try to simplify and speed up the mating routine.

As most producers using this system have better conception rates than us, it has to be worth a go.

Since my last ramblings, the herd has continued to perform well and we are farrowing a large number of sows over the next few weeks.

The resulting pig sales will be more than welcome.

See also: Outing cancelled as sows farrow early

Main performance factors have been maintained, and hopefully this will continue into the autumn.

The cynic in me says I’ve just jinxed it.

As I write this, the sound of combines is a distant background hum. I look forward to the arrival of our year’s supply of bales over the next few weeks.

The muck pad has been emptied and the waste straw cleaned up from the pad and removed in anticipation.

We are awaiting the arrival of our newest member of staff at the end of the month. When he gets here we will be able to speed up alterations and spend more time with the stock. I personally cannot wait.

With the current very hot weather my comments last time on growing gills have to be revisited. We now need air conditioning for both staff and stock.


Tony Bayles runs a herd of 1,000 sows producing 7kg pigs and all his own replacement stock on contract to a large local producer.