Sow Lifetime Productivity (SLP) is the number of high-quality pigs that a sow weans from the time she becomes breeding eligible until the sow leaves the herd. Compared with the more common measurement of pigs/sow/year, SLP more fully represents a sow’s overall production efficiency and its impact on the enterprise’s profitability.
“Pigs/sow/year not only fails to address a sow’s longevity, it doesn’t account for the quality or viability of the piglets.” said Chris Hostetler, animal science director for the Pork Checkoff.
To address the issue, in 2010 the Pork Checkoff created the Sow Lifetime Productivity Task Force, made up of producers, researchers and allied industry representatives. The task force has identified and funded research projects related to factors that can affect SLP, including sow nutrition, genetic selection, environment, animal welfare and animal health, for a total of $2.7 million over a seven-year timeline.
Results from these and other Checkoff-funded projects have been presented in a series of webinars, which can be viewed online at:
This year, the National Pork Board expanded efforts to investigate sow mortality and why sows leave herds prematurely. The Pig Survivability Working Group was organized and has funded an Iowa State University project to classify reasons for sow mortality, with an emphasis on sow pelvic organ prolapses. The research team, headed by Jason Ross, director of the Iowa Pork Industry Center, tracks more than 100 farms and 400,000 sows from 16 states. Weekly reports are available online at pork.to/productivity.
The Checkoff’s Animal Science Committee committed nearly 80 percent of its 2018 research budget to study sow and pig survival. The Animal Welfare Committee also provided funds, for a total of $1 million. While the first sow mortality study is still underway, Hostetler said it will help identify future research projects and mitigation strategies.
Free Checkoff Resources Available
Checkoff materials to aid breeding herd decisions are available from the Pork Store at pork.org. These include a Replacement Gilt Evaluation Pocket Guide and posters to aid in heat detection, scoring sow body condition and gilt selection.