Economics of sow mortality and hitting breeding targets

Aug 28, 2023

Many producers raising pigs in the late 20th century can remember when sows were mainly kept in outdoor pens and fed less rigorously. Our harsh Midwest winters and sweltering summers resulted in hardy gilts and sows with a mortality rate as low as 2% that might keep delivering litters to Parity 9, P10, P11 or further — but fewer pigs per litter than now.

Their bodies converted feed into keeping their immune and metabolic systems strong, and less toward the requirements of reproduction. In contrast, today’s indoor sows are ultra-performance animals for breeding.

If we were to compare one of these modern sows to a racecar, we might say when they have the right mix of feed (fuel) as well as veterinary (mechanic) and on-farm (pit crew) care, they are champions that can wean 35 piglets, or about 2.5 litters, per year. But if just one of those inputs slides in quality or the animal’s body doesn’t work so well, the metaphorical racecar can hit a wall. After all, Mother Nature tends to only let something be talented at so many things — a pig can be hardy for itself and good at producing large litters, but only with precisely managed inputs and conditions.

Generally a gilt surpasses its breakeven point on your investment in it once she is a P3 sow. That’s when she has returned more than the investment made into her vet care and feeding, vaccinations, human labor to care for her, inseminations and the like.

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