The U.S. pork industry continues to experience steady genetic growth. Sows today are genetically able to produce more marketable pounds in a quicker time frame than ever before, but are U.S. sows meeting their full genetic potential? Research shows that some sows may not, due to shortages in nutrition.
When adequate nutrients are not supplied to sows through their ration, they are unable to meet their optimum sow lifetime productivity — or SLP. The National Pork Board defines SLP as the total number of quality pigs weaned during the productive lifetime, from the time the gilt becomes breeding eligible until it leaves the herd. NPB indicates that SLP potential is higher than ever before as sows are genetically capable of producing 30 pigs per sow per year.
You can maximize the SLP growth trend by focusing on PSY rates as well as working to enhance the number of full-potential pigs. Recent work by PIC shows the potential to produce 30 PSY is possible with the genetics in place today. The researchers estimated the United States’ genetic potential at 26 PSY in 2004, with genetic improvements pushing that potential to 28.5 pigs in 2010 and closer to 30 PSY today.
Though most U.S. sows have the potential to produce 30 full-potential pigs annually, very few U.S. producers are reaching this production opportunity. Research shows that low PSY rates on an operation may be attributed to early exit of sows from the herd and high pre-weaning mortality rates traced back to low birthweights. Focusing on sow nutrition can help minimize both of these issues.
Early Exit of Sows from the Herd
When sows exit the herd before becoming profitable, a facility’s SLP drops significantly and its bottom line is impacted. Recent Iowa State University research shows that sows reach their breakeven point economically in the third parity and are most profitable when they remain in the herd for six to nine parities, depending on variable costs. (Go to http://tinyurl.com/927ctqx.)
At this fall’s Allen D. Leman Swine Conference, Steven Pollman of Murphy Brown, Western Operations, in Ames, Iowa, presented information on sow lifetime productivity, explaining that U.S. sows exit the herd on average between parity 3.3 and 3.7 and that sow replacement rates average 50 percent to 60 percent annually. Due to early herd exit, Pollman said that many parity 1 and parity 2 sows never reach the 30 PSY goal. In fact, approximately 42 percent of all sows produce only 19 or fewer full-potential pigs in their lifetimes. But this can be improved by feeding sows for long-term productivity before their first parity.