V Boars - Pig World

1st February 2016

"The value of your investment may go down as well as up"

If we want to maintain a prolific and productive herd, we must continue to prioritise the introduction of high genetic merit replacement gilts into our herd. Additionally we must manage and feed them correctly in order to maximise the prolificacy of breeding herd and efficiency of feeding herd in the future.

The old adage "If it's not broke, don't fix it" is often bandied about in all walks of life and whilst partially true, we can't afford to dismiss new concepts or technologies simply because something does ok and 'hasn't let me down over the years'. In reality, if we are not regularly trialling new concepts, we will stagnate and decline whilst our compatriots who embrace proven methodologies will progress at our expense. In the context of getting the most out of replacement gilts, we really need to regularly challenge our policies and routines and see if there is scope for improvement.

In all too many instances gilts are selected on the day before their cohorts go to the factory; are taken out to the relevant pen and put on whatever feed happens to feed that section of the farm. As nutritionists, we regularly debate the necessity for proper gilt development rations in terms of securing the longevity of these gilts in our herd. In many instances, the retort we get on farm is along the lines of 'oh it's such a small quantity' or 'I have no bin'. Yes, both of these points are fair but in essence it amounts to poor judgement in terms of looking after our investment. Ask yourself: would a premier league outfit spend millions bringing a top calibre player to their club and then not ask him to look after himself / train properly?

Another area that can significantly affect the success of our investment is reproductive management at puberty and first mating. One proven method to get our new gilts off to a productive start is to use vasectomised boars (v boars). Hormonally intact v boars act as an enhanced management control, stimulating and detecting oestrus better than any stockman. Riley & Foote (1999) demonstrated that gilts mated at first heat with a v boar had a higher farrowing rate and a higher first litter size than those that were not mated with a v boar on first heat. This is reinforced by Van Wettere et al (2006) who showed that gilt ovulation rate and embryonic survival are higher for gilts mated to a v boar at puberty and conceiving on second oestrus. The use of a v boar on farm is a subtle change but one which can really pay dividends. Rules when using v boars and gilts:

  • Use groups of 12 gilts or less to 1 v boar for exposure period
  • Give full physical contact between v boar and gilts for 15-20 minutes/ day everyday
  • Start daily boar contact at 25-28 weeks of age
  • Ensure space of at least 1.5m2 or 16.2 sq ft/ gilt
  • Mate at 30-34 weeks
  • Cull any non-breeders at 34 weeks of age

Consult your vet to talk about the benefits of using a v boar and to perform the vasectomy procedure on the chosen animal. Can we afford not to re-focus in the service shed to improve performance? Winston Churchill: "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often."

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