Practical advice on managing prolific sows and insights into future feeding strategies were the headline themes addressed during Rattlerow Farms’ autumn conferences in Yorkshire and the East of England.
The need for uniformity of production and the fact that the relationship between genetics and nutrition is becoming much closer, were the key issues tackled by Trouw Nutrition GB’s nutritionist and pig technical manager, Dr Sian Nichols.
Pointing out that swift genetic development in recent years has given today’s farmers access to highly productive dam lines, Dr Nichols said that nutritional strategies must keep pace with such new potential, with many traditional concepts and recommendations warranting some re-evaluation.
“Modern females are more than capable of producing large litters, but they need good quality nutrition and a more targeted approach to feeding which requires investment,” she said.
Dr Nichols also explained how nutrition in early life impacts on total performance and how exposure to nutrients and microorganisms – good and bad – can influence gut development.
Immune responses to ingested materials, for example, such as feed, bedding, medication and dung, create “gut reactions” which if not managed well, can predispose pigs to dietary/health problems later in life, resulting in performance losses.
“By gaining a better understanding of how naïve digestive systems develop, particularly during the first six weeks of life,” she said, “producers could potentially improve pre and post weaning piglet performance.”
Top 10% units
Conference delegates were also treated to a discussion of the management techniques used with high-performance dam lines by Robin Brice of Countess Wells Breeding and by Rattlerow’s outdoor production manager, John Theobald.
Delegates were told that productivity in both businesses is ranked in the top 10% of UK recorded herds, with this achievement being due to “consistent, disciplined routines, good biosecurity and health management and skilled, motivated staff”.
The message from Countess Wells was that gilts there are served at 260 days of age and are expected to rear 12 pigs a litter. There is also a firm commitment to rear small pigs which has involved considerable investment in both time and money. This strategy, however, has helped the 700-sow herd wean in excess of 30 pigs/sow/year and sell 29.4 during the past twelve months. Piglet mortality is under 10%, with the unit’s small pigs going on to grade well, with good conformation and no lag in performance in the rearing period.
Current performance on Rattlerow’s outdoor units, meanwhile, is 26 pigs weaned/sow /year, which is 3.18 pigs more than the AHDB average recorded herds. In addition, initial results from an outdoor site that is now using Aardvark huts indicate a 1% reduction in pre-weaning mortality, which could take productivity higher.
Rattlerow also used the conferences to talk about current developments within its independent Klasse AI business and the range of UK and European sire lines now standing at its British studs.
Headline image shows conference speakers (l-r) John Theobald, Rattlerow Farms outdoor production manager, Ian Gillies, Rattlerow Farms AI and genetics manager; Dr Sian Nichols, pig technical manager at Trouw Nutrition GB; Robin Brice, Countess Wells Breeding and Stefan Derks, Director Klasse.