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Saturday, 31 July 2021 17:40

Maximizing Litter Size in Pigs

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Maximizing Litter Size in Pigs

Litter size is one of the key determinants for profitability in pig production. Big litter sizes result in more pigs sold and more revenue realized from your project. 

The number of pigs sold per sow per year can be affected by the litter size at birth. If a big litter is farrowed and mortality is low the number of pigs sold per sow per year will be high. The following can assist you to increase sow litter size. 

1. Litter size tends to decline after the fourth parity. The litter size of sows above the seventh parity is comparable to that of gilts hence a large proportion of sows in their late parities will result in reduced sow productivity.

2. Keep breeds known for producing large litters since breed affects litter size. The Mukota pig produces smaller litters than the large white or landrace. Large white is known to consistently produce better litters. Crossbreeds produce about 5% more pigs at birth on average than the average of the constituent purebreds. 

3. Aim for double or triple mating since single mating tends to result in smaller litters. Double or triple service spread over the period when the sow or gilt shows the standing reaction to the boar helps to increase litter size. 

4. Mate animals about 10 to 20 hours before ovulation which is the next time the animal shows signs of standing heat. Since the exact timing of ovulation cannot be predicted, mating cannot be timed to produce an optimum result. In order to increase the chances of fresh semen being available when ovulation takes place multiple services are conducted during the period the sow stands for the boar.

5. Mate animals that are healthy and free from diseases. Some diseases like SMEDI cause embryonic deaths which negatively affects litter size. 

6. Avoid overusing the boar as this lowers semen concentration and conception rate. Sperms need time to mature, overusing a boar result in a reduced period to mature hence poor fertilization. This also reduces boar lifespan.  

7. Avoid overfeeding the sows during the post-service period since this has been linked to smaller litter sizes. It is recommended that serviced sows be fed 2kgs per days.

8. Avoid stressing animals prior to mating. Stress results in high embryonic mortality. Mixing groups, not enough feed and water and poor animal handling are some of the causes of stress. 

9. Wean piglets no later than 4 weeks after farrowing. Early weaning reduces conception rate and litter size. 

10. Maintain optimum temperatures 18 to 21oC. Excessive temperatures in early pregnancy have been observed to increase embryonic losses. 

11. The process of increasing feed or energy intake for several days before mating is known as flushing. If gilts are to mated at second heat, the most effective treatment is to limit their feed intake in the later part of rearing, to increase their feeding level 10-14 days before mating and to reduce feed allowance to a normal restricted level immediately after mating. 

12. Litter size at first farrowing is more influenced by the heat number at which the gilt is mated than by her age or weight. The number of eggs shed is lowest at first heat and tend to increase with subsequent heat. 

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