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Ron Bazylo, Swine Specialist, Swan River
Proper breeding is essential to accomplish successful farrowing, weaning and grower-finishing management. A well-run operation follows a set routine. It operates on a set number of breedings per week and a set number of farrowings per week. The farrowing room must be kept full to maximize production efficiency.
A producer should be aware of his average farrowing rate for each month of the year. Let's assume a producer has four farrowing rooms of twelve crates each. He weans at 21 days of age. His records may show he has a farrowing rate of 92% from September to April (8 months). May and June may show farrowing rates of 86% and July and August show farrowing rates of 80%. To have twelve sows enter the crates from September to April, he would have to breed 13 sows weekly (13*92% farrowing rate = 12). In May and June he would have to breed 14 sows per week and in July and August, fifteen sows per week. In this situation, if any sows return into estrous, they should be culled. If sows are kept and then re-bred 21 days later, their farrowing rate drops down to 67%, and if they return to heat again and are again re-bred, their chances of conceiving drop to 50%.
Gilts and sows should be bred as many times as possible if you have the boar power, and/or you don't have the expertise in determining the correct times for breeding. Many operations breed morning, evening, morning, evening for as long as the female will stand. This usually increases rates. Boars should not be used more than four times per week on average. It is a good idea to use different boars on the same sow as an insurance policy. One boar could have had heat stress by running a temperature for example, and his sperm may not be up to par for up to 6 weeks. In this case the other boar will cover up for him until he returns to normal. Once a boar mates, remove him from the breeding pen until that evening.
In this case gilt pools are very important since you are weaning only 12 sows per week. A minimum of one gilt per week would be needed, but up to 6 may be required if, for example, you are breeding 15 sows in July, and you just culled three of the sows you weaned. Weanings are usually carried out on Thursdays, and the majority of breedings are don from Monday to Wednesday.
For further information on breeding management, contact your swine specialist.