Larry Coleman, DVM, (left) believes farrowing room personnel are the critical fi rst link in moving an operation toward world-class productivity. Does 33.5 pigs per sow per year sound feasible? How about a 95 percent farrowing rate and a litter weaning average of 13 pigs?
With today’s sow genetics fully capable of producing 30 pigs per sow per year you could achieve 9,000 pounds of pigs per sow annually. It would surely classify as world-class production.
In moving your system toward world-class production, there are several challenges that must be overcome, and obstructions that must be removed, says Larry Coleman, DVM, Broken Bow, Neb., who says the pregnant sow is a good place to start.
“Producers need to bear in mind that inside this sow are 15 piglets that must pass through a very small opening and the probability of that happening unassisted is actually quite low,” he says. With so much invested in each sow, you need that process to be successful.
Before entering the farrowing room, sows should be washed thoroughly with soap, lukewarm water and a soft brush, paying extra attention to the underline. Rinse the sow from the top of its back down.
A clean, dry farrowing environment will reduce the risk of bacterial contamination and piglet disease. If possible, the total farrowing unit should be cleaned thoroughly to remove all organic matter, then disinfected and left unused for at least 5 to 7 days before a new group of sows is introduced into the unit. If not possible, the individual farrowing pen or crate should at least be cleaned, disinfected and allowed to dry.
The sow should be in the farrowing crate the 110th day of gestation to allow for acclimation to the new environment before the stress of farrowing begins.
Coleman emphasizes that about 20 percent of piglets born in the United States don’t survive and the attrition rate is getting worse. In fact, USDA Agricultural Research Scientists estimate that pre-weaning mortality costs the U.S. pork industry an estimated $1.6 billion each year.
Teamwork by trained and motivated farrowing room attendants lend invaluable assistance to sows as well as newborn piglets, says Coleman, who oversees veterinary care for a 5,000-sow operation. With perhaps 10 sows farrowing at any given time, the farm’s attendants stay very busy with the birthing process.
In that system, one attendant examines each sow at 20-minute intervals and assists with delivery if needed. He says the efforts of a conscientious farrowing attendant can keep piglet stillbirth mortality rates down to about 1 percent to 2 percent.