Having gilts with correct backfat levels at first farrowing is critical to gilt development, says Bob Goodband, Kansas State nutritionist. Ideally, gilts will have about 19 millimeters of backfat at farrowing.

The goal is for a gilt to be mated at a moderate body weight, and then allowed to continue to grow through the first gestation period.

Goodband stresses nutrition is secondary to proper management, when it comes to developing gilts. He recommends the following tips as priorities when developing gilts:

  • Gilts should enter the herd at a young age (after weaning or by 50 pounds.) This allows time for thorough acclimatization.
  • Begin boar exposure at 140 days to 150 days of age. Goodband recommends direct, daily boar exposure for a period of at least 15 minutes.
  • Record estrus to ensure that the gilt is bred at second or later estrus.
  • Provide extra space during the development stage. Provide about 12 square feet to 15 square feet after the animal reaches 140 days of age.
  • Move the gilt to a gestation crate 14 days to 21 days before it’s bred.
  • Flush feed (feed at higher levels) until the gilt is mated, then immediately drop feedings to 4 pounds a day.