Easier management through strong relationships with the sows

At Overgaard Gods, they focus on the well-being of the sows, which makes management that much easier. The manager in the farrowing unit has noticed that the sows get more robust piglets after piglet survival was implemented in DanBred’s breeding goals.

Having loose sows can be challenging. At Overgaard Gods, they focus on ensuring that their piglets are easy to care for.

We don’t push the sows into anything. Especially when we have to move them from one pen to another, we don’t push them, we let them take the time it takes. We always make sure that they are calm and feel free,” says Lene Wahl Meincke, manager in the farrowing unit at Overgaard Gods, where they have 1,600 DanBred sows.

When they participated in a recent SEGES test, she discovered that the DanBred sows can care for more piglets than she previously thought. This means that they have been able to limit the number of nurse sows in the herd.

Great experience with pigs

Lene Wahl Meincke has worked with pigs for more than 20 years. At Overgaard Gods it is the first time that she works with loose lactating sows, and she has worked here for two years. She has had her struggles with the sows in the past, and therefore, it is important for her to have a good relationship with the animals.

I focus on being kind to them. I bring sugar cubes with me when walking around the sows. So, they don’t always think it has to be something bad when I come by, like when they need to be vaccinated or have pigs moved,” Lene explains, and continues: “If it’s possible to set aside just 10-15 minutes each day to simply walk around and be with the sows, without having to do a task. I think that will go a long way.

Robust piglets with new breeding goals

After DanBred implemented a new breeding goal for piglet survival in the summer of 2022, Lene has noticed that the piglets are larger. The piglets are more robust and they thrive even better in a loose pen.

For the past eight months, we have had litters with larger pigs. It’s nice to see that they’re doing better and, therefore, require less management,” she explains.

The results for piglet survival from DanBred’s breeding and multiplication herds show an improvement of almost 5 percentage points in DanBred Duroc and improvements of 2.5 and 1 percentage point respectively for the female breeds, DanBred Landrace and DanBred Yorkshire, over the past year. And the improvements have also reached the production herds.

The breeding helps the herds on their way

A high survival among piglets cannot be achieved by genetics alone. It also requires good management and focus on the sow’s ability to care for her piglets.

Our focus with the trait has been to help the piglets well on their way when they come into the world. But breeding cannot do it alone. It requires good management, and, therefore, it is nice to see that on a farm like Overgaard they manage to combine the two,” says Tage Ostersen, Head of Department in Breeding & Genetics, Danish Agriculture & Food Council.