Sow productivity has traditionally been defined as the number of pigs weaned per sow per year. Over the last 15 years, the use of improved genetic selection techniques has led to a large increase in total numbers born, which has made it possible to achieve 30 pigs per sow each year. However, in some breeding programs, heavy selection pressure for total numbers born has resulted in some negative implications for piglet quality, growth rate to market, feed efficiency and carcass value.
Work by Dr. George Foxcroft and his team at the Swine Research and Technology Centre, University of Alberta, has shown that crowding of large numbers of embryos in the uterus and the consequent restriction of nutrient supply can result in low-birthweight litters. Piglets from these litters are less viable, grow more slowly and have poorer carcass quality. This work, and other research, suggests that the negative effects could easily outweigh the benefits of increased litter size.
Hypor's approach to this dilemma is to focus on a combination of traits, which balances many aspects of sow productivity in a composite selection index in order to give the best economic outcome. The ability of a sow to wean large numbers of heavy piglets during her lifetime is central to this concept and is termed Weaning Capacity. This may be defined as: The genetic potential to maximize the weight of piglets weaned and pork sold per sow productive lifetime.
This measure clearly defines the sow's lifetime productivity and recognizes the value of piglet quality and sow longevity, not just litter size or pigs weaned per sow per year. Weaning Capacity is truly the best measure of sow reproductive efficiency and profit potential of the breeding female.
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Article made possible through the contribution of Hypor.