How to reduce pig weight variability?

Published on: 07/04/2016
Author/s : Miquel Collel (Director, Scientific Marketing Affairs, Global Swine) and Olivia Azlor (Global Marketing Director, Global Swine), Merck Animal Health.

In a sector aiming at standardizing the final product at the maximum, variability in pig weight at slaughter age is still one of the major issues in the swine industry nowadays. Why is pig weight variability important? – The world as a distribution and not an average Producers often talk in terms of weight average, treating a batch as if it was a single animal. Consequently, the batch wil...

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July 4, 2016

We have found that later BW's (168 d) or days to constant BW's (120 or 130 kg) to have linear-quadratic relationships with both birth and weaning weights. Also the BW gain the first two weeks after weaning is important. After birth, any management to increase the growth of the lightest pigs in the group can reduce variation. Each stress - disease - heat - social interactions from mixing etc, increase variation also.

Note also the light weight pigs are birth and weaning are much less profitable than heavier pigs are birth and weaning. The lighter the pig at birth and weaning - the less valuable it is.
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July 5, 2016

Genetic part of the equation. Birth weight is highly heritable, from the maternal side: some sow families give heavy piglets, others light. Heritable also means repeatable, sorting sows based on first and/or second litter birth weights will definitely create difference in third or later parity. Service sire, father of the piglets has very little to do with birth weight.
Within litter standard deviation is heritable too, at a lower level, but still. Genetic selection can reduce variation in birth weight. Unfortunately there is a high positive correlation between level and variation. Selecting for higher birth weight will give more variation and selection for more uniformity will make pigs lighter. Interesting challenge for breeding companies.

I fully support the proper sorting of piglets based on birth weight and day of birth, there is serious money involved in the proper management of the different groups.

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July 5, 2016
also the light weight piglets at birth are slowing growing (even at the same BW) and are less feed efficient (based on thousands of pigs with individual feed intake data). Light weight pigs less than 1.1 kg at birth can be 20 to 30 US dollars less profitable per pig than pigs with birth weights above 1.1 kg.. Light birth weight gilts in multiplier herds have lower probabiiity of research puberty in time to be selected and have lower litter size and longevity.
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September 4, 2016
Dear All I have a hard time understanding how people are saying that the Sire has little to do with Birth Weights as the Boar offers have of the Genetic material of each and every pig. To select Low Birth Weight/ High Weaning Weights the Cattle Industry worked primarily with the Sire Side of the Equation! Please let me know where this thinking is going wrong!

Paul Walker Thompson
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September 4, 2016
Dear All I have extended experience with Synchronize Farrowing and we had great Piglet Birth Weight Variability. The advantage gained was Attended Farrowing, especially from ten to three o'clock during the day, The ability to flow All-In/All-Out.

Paul Walker Thompson
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September 4, 2016

The sources of variation for birth weight and their relative importance varies from species to species. In pigs, the genetic variation is greatest for the maternal effect and not the direct genetic effect. The uterine environment is the largest source of variation. In beef cattle, the direct effect have more genetic variation. In humans, the maternal effect is largest and the sire has little effect. My wife comes from family with long gestation lengths and gestation high sugars. My first son was born 12 lbs 12 ounces. The beef cattle boys ( profs) - posted a sire summary and put my name and EPD for birth weight of 12.75 -- and suggestion I should be culled as a cow killer. Well-- culling decisions of sires must be based on more than 1 offspring our of one dam -- but also in humans the sire has little impact on the birth of the offspring. The exact opposite of cattle. Horses are in between the sire and the dam breed have effects but if small breed large breed reciprocal crosses are made the larger offspring will be out the large dam breed.

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September 4, 2016

Also the much of the economic impact of variation is at the pork processor level. Increased variation in Carcass weight causes increased variation in the cut weights. The distribution of carcass weight with serial marketing of pigs from a barn ( for example 25 % -- then 25% in 10 days and the remainder in 15 days) results in a non-normal distribution carcass weights. If pigs BW's are close to normal - serial cuts from a normal is not normal. We have done simulation and actual data that the accuracy in which pigs are sorted can double the stand deviation in the carcass weights of the pigs delivered. The amount of variation in carcass weight and the distribution of carcass weight is greatly affected by the accuracy in which pigs are sorted for market. Published in "The Professional Animal Scientist- 2016.

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Dan L. McDermott
Dan L. McDermott
Bachelor of Science ANIMAL SCIENCE
  Rock Island, Illinois, United States
 
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