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Ron Bazylo, Swine Specialist
It is well known that overweight sows that farrow will tend to lose more weight during lactation and will take longer to come into estrous following weaning. Generally, sows should come into heat within four to six days following weaning. First litter gilts have a tendency to show longer estrous returns (over seven days some cases). This, as a result, throws off the breeding schedule the following week.
On many farms, weaning is carried out on Thursdays, and the sows are bred the following week on Monday to Wednesday. Since gilts take longer to return to heat, many producers wean their first litter gilts on Monday. This allows them to return to heat with the main sow herd and also prevents them from losing excessive condition. Gilts should nurse only eight piglets if you have the opportunity to cross-foster the pigs shortly after birth.
After weaning, sows and first litter gilts should be placed on full feed. This will help them return to estrous quicker. Once they are in estrous and are bred, feed should be cut back to reduce embryonic death loss.
If operations don’t practice excellent heat detection, sows should be bred as many times as possible. They can be bred morning, evening, morning and evening, if possible. PigChamp records on many farms show continuously that sows bred three or more times consistently have more pigs born alive and have higher farrowing rates. If you are using boars instead of artificial insemination, it is wise to use two or three different boars as an insurance policy.
Breeding management is the most important aspect of hog production. Taking the extra time can pay off big dividends in the long run.