Canadians target increased sow longevity

The differences between pig production systems here in the UK and in North America are being highlighted by a series of workshops hosted by Canada’s Parairie Swine Centre (PSC) that have been designed to extend the longevity of the breeding sow.

The workshops, which are being carried out in partnership with Swine Innovation Porc, will update pork producers on research being conducted in the area of sow lameness, longevity and temperament.

The PSC’s manager of contract research, Helen Thoday, told Pig World that the aim of the workshops was to get as many sows as possible past parity three, when they are actually considered to be making a profit on North American units.

“The difference in North America is sows have a very marketable carcase and a large proportion of bacon and sausage is from sows,” she said. “This encourages early culling, so maybe it’s not a like for like situation with the EU industry.”

Ms Thoday added that while six parities would be a common target in North America, many sows wouldn’t make it that far, especially if the sow price was good.

“We’re becoming more and more interested in longevity to improve the pig producers’ bottom line because the longer the sow can go on producing and not be culled out for any lameness or temperament reasons is the most effective payback of that gilt in your herd,” she said. “We’re also considering the future and the changes in housing all across North America and how that might impact producers.”

The workshop has also highlighted differences between housing in-pig sows in crates rather than in groups.

“Sows that are being taken out of the herd through lameness are not being removed quick enough due to stalled systems where there’s no easy observation of lameness issues,” Ms Thoday said. “There’s really only one opportunity to observe the sow properly each cycle when she’s being moved from the stall to the farrowing barn.

“Early observation of slight lameness is crucial so remedial action is taken and the sow can then live a productive life.”

Another issue is that producers need to understand the implcations of a move to group housing a sit’s known that sows in groups behave differently.

“They’re physically more active and that means they’re coming into contact with the flooring types more and we need to consider what the sow needs to be productive and have a long life in those different group sow housing situations,” Ms Thoday said. “And we also need to start looking at the temperament as well. This is another area that’s been researched in the past, but maybe will come to the forefront of our minds as stockpeople start to interact more regularly with their sows in groups and as we start to handle them a lot more in the group sow environment.”

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