Proper training of employees, understanding of pig health and viability and having effective protocols in place are a few variables that when done correctly positively influence production numbers. One protocol that can be considered by farm management is the ability to have attended farrowings at your operation. However, this protocol doesn’t come without a price tag. In order to have attended farrowings you will need to either implement an induction protocol, increasing your animal health costs or increase the number of hours employees are on site, upping your labor costs. Both of these options are ones to consider for your farm, if you indeed see a benefit to attended farrowings.
In order to help producers weigh the options for attended farrowing, various research projects have taken place to help determine the effect of attend farrowings on number of piglets born alive and increased colostrum intake which leads to increased immunity resulting in healthier piglets.
159 multi-parity sows were involved in a 2011 trial by Nguyen looking at the benefit of attended farrowings. Sows were split into two groups of 75 and 84 respectively. The protocol for the sows in group one required the sows to be induced on day 114. These sows also had a supervised farrowing experience, with assistance as needed during working hours. Group two protocols required the sows to farrow naturally and said sows were only supervised twice a day during feeding and if assistance was needed at that time, it was given. Throughout this process 75 percent of the sows in group one farrowed during working hours and only four sows in the group did not complete the farrowing process by the end of the work day, 5 p.m.
Results from this field trail included a measureable difference in the number of stillborn piglets between groups. In the induced group one, 27 percent of the sows had a stillborn in their litter and in the control group two, 49 percent of the sows had a stillborn in their litter. This indicates that the risk of stillborn piglets increases by 2.8 when farrowings are not scheduled during work hours so that they can be attended by stockpersons. Although the results from this study are favorable for attended or scheduled farrowings it was also found that when the piglets were followed through weaning there was no effect, either increase or decrease, on pre-wean mortality for these groups. Management protocols after day one were not considered and are indicators for pre-wean mortality.
Although having stock people available when farrowing is underway can be considered a best practice, Michigan State University Extension educators cautions that consideration should be given to the extra cost associated with this practice. Increase animal health or labor costs can impact an operation’s bottom-line as much as an additional pig per sow per year numbers can and complete evaluations of associated costs should be done.
For more information on this topic can be found in the MSU Extension Pork Quarterly.