Pork Producers Encouraged to Focus on Average Birth Weights Rather than Litter Size

Farmscape for February 13, 2013

Researchers with the University of Alberta are encouraging pork producers to place a higher priority on the average birth weights of litters of pigs rather than the size of those litters.
Over the past 20 years the number of pigs born in the litter has increased by two to three pigs but the number of pigs born alive has not changed to the same extent.
As part of research conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc the University of Alberta looked at the effect of average litter birth weight on survivability and growth performance.
Miranda Smit, a graduate student working under the supervision of Dr. George Foxcroft, reports when your reach litter sizes of 16 or more pretty much all of those litters will fall in the low birth weight group and those pigs will show slower growth performance and reduced carcass quality.

Clip-Miranda Smit-University of Alberta:
Even when you look at the litter sizes below 16 it's very important to actually look at the average birth weight of the litter instead of the litter size because the average birth weight of the litter has a way bigger impact on postnatal growth performance.
One of the things that we suggests is, because sows actually repeat the litter birth weight phenotype over and over again, after a few times you know which sows will give you those litters with a low birth weight.
If you know this you can, for example, if you have two farrow rooms farrowing at the same time, you can make one farrow room the room with all the sows with a predicted low birth weight phenotype and make this your high priority room so have more people going in that room and hopefully try to save some piglets that way.

Smit recommends segregated management at weaning based on the average birth weight of the litters.
She says by housing low birth weight litters in one barn and high birth weight litters in another those pigs can be fed to their independent needs and they can be sold into different markets.
For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.

       *Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork Council