Warm spring weather is finally here in Ontario! Although spring field work has been delayed, the seasonal increase in hog prices came early and strong. Lean hog futures remain volatile due to ongoing trade “talks” and unknowns with African swine fever, but each contract month for the next year+ is settling in the $80-$95 range. Now is the time to produce lots of pork and AGC is here to help with that task.
Our breeding program doesn’t focus on just one trait like number born to get pigs out the door. Rather, we take a balanced approach to ensure there is genetic improvement on all economically important traits through the entire production system. A high number born is important, but lots of heavy weaned pigs will lead to more pork and profit. Uniform birth weights, number of teats, and mothering ability contribute to this and are part of AGC’s dam line index.
When feed prices are low and pork prices are high, shipping at heavier weights becomes more profitable. However, finishing space is often limited so growth rate is ever more important. AGC hogs are some of the
fastest growing in the industry and we continue to see increased growth rates in all three of our main breeds. With the shift to heavier market weights, our adjustment factors for loin depth and backfat have also shifted from a 100kg base to 120kg and heavier.
Lastly, vigour or robustness cannot be ignored to ensure all pigs become full value market hogs. We try to minimize stressors in our pigs’ environments, but we can’t eliminate them. Crossing AGC F1 sows with AGC Durocs maximizes hybrid vigour and produces some of the most robust pigs in the industry. They are resilient when fighting disease, they are not prone to show vices such as tail biting, and they remain calm during higher stress events such as sorting and shipping.
AGC genetics are leaders in all three components that maximize kilograms of pork produced per sow per year. Check out the next page for tips on how to maximize production on your farm. We look forward to seeing you at the Ontario Pork Congress June 19-20 to talk pigs and visit.
Litter weight at weaning
Improving litter size and weight at weaning begins with proper gilt development. Start your gilts on a gilt developer diet at 75kg and give them early and regular boar exposure starting at 160 days of age. Record their first heat and then breed them when they are at least 140kg and 220 days old. Keep your gilts (and sows) in a comfortable environment and let them become comfortable with you. A low stress environment will lead to more uniform birth weights. Maintain backfat levels at 19-20mm. Body condition scoring is helpful, but can be misleading. Let us know if you’d like your gilts and sows backfat tested with our new wireless scanner.
Store semen at 17°C and handle with care. Inseminate at proper times and provide plenty of boar exposure and physical stimulation when doing so. Do not mix sows 1-4 weeks post-breeding. Rather, this is now the time build up their body condition through individualized feeding levels. Follow your vet prescribed vaccine protocol. Place gilts in dry stalls for two weeks prior to farrowing to get them comfortable with farrowing crates. Load your farrowing rooms when clean and dry and several days before the first due dates. Transition your gilts and sows to a lactation diet.
Monitor farrowings whenever possible. Keep track of intervals between piglet births, especially on sows with a history of stillbirths. Assist if no piglet is born in the last 30 minutes. Dry piglets immediately and get them on a teat. Split suckle large litters and cross foster within 24 hours after some colostrum intake. Match the number of piglets on a sow to the number of functional teats. This goes for gilts too – load them up to get the udder properly developed for subsequent parities.
Transition sows to an ad lib diet 1 week after farrowing. Maximize intake by feeding >2 times per day, adding water to feed, keeping feed fresh, and providing cool air for the sows, but warm microenvironments for the piglets. Check body temperatures of sows off feed. Continue to feed a lactation diet ad lib from weaning until breeding. AGC F1 sows have strong appetites which contributes to high milk production, large litters in subsequent parities, and endurance.
Genetics, health, nutrition, air quality, and stocking density are the main factors influencing growth rate. AGC Yorkshire and Landrace pigs are not only selected for maternal traits, but also for some terminal traits including growth rate. When their F1 progeny are mated to AGC Durocs, you get the fastest growing pigs available. The most extreme AGC Durocs for growth rate can be accessed through the AGC Feed Saver pool. The AGC Meat Maker pool also has fast growing AGC Durocs, but their superiority comes more through lean yield and loin eye area.
Decreased growth rates are obvious when new diseases strike, but chronic diseases and underlying health challenges can have as much or more impact on lifetime growth rates and performance. Be sure to have a good working relationship with your veterinarian to address these concerns. Through good biosecurity and health management, the genetic potential for growth rate is much more likely to be captured.
One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to nutrition. Good quality ingredients are a must, but the balancing of rations depends on production goals. Maximizing growth rate through nutrition is one goal, but it will mean a higher cost of feed per tonne. Consult with your nutritionist to determine what works best for your situation.
Cold pigs eat to stay warm and hot pigs don’t eat. Neither grow well, so we try to keep barns within a comfortable temperature range. The quality of the air can’t be forgotten either. Wash barns regularly to reduce dust particles. Empty manure pits before they get within 1ft of the slats. Minimum ventilation in the winter is needed to remove humidity and ammonia – supplementary heating may be necessary. Use a child’s bubble making machine to see air flow patterns and find dead air spaces. Use sprinklers (not misters) in humid summer weather sparingly. Evaporative cooling only works when small water droplets land on a pig’s body and then evaporate.
Managing stocking density is tricky as it can quickly become a downward spiral. Too high density leads to reduced feeder and drinker space, poorer air quality, higher stress, more health challenges, and thus slower growth and less total pig space. Don’t let your poor performing pigs hold all the others back. Depending on their status, ship them early, treat and place in a hospital pen, or euthanize. Accept the discount on your tail-enders; don’t keep them back and mix with a younger group. Catch the big ones. The first ones in a group to reach market weight often get there sooner than we expect. These are also often the lowest yielding pigs, so catch them early and thin out the group.
A full barn doesn’t necessarily equate with good sow production. Monitoring nursery-finisher performance in continuous flow systems isn’t as common as monitoring sow performance, but it can help target areas to improve and ways to produce more pork. Let anyone on the A-Team know if you’d like assistance with this for we can also analyze and benchmark the results.