Summary
  • Recent advances in commercial dam lines have led to sows producing more piglets born alive and more finished pigs than ever before. This means there is a higher requirement on sow energy reserves.
  • Modern dam lines are leaner and in some cases have sub-optimal feed intakes and lower back-fat measurements which can negatively affect lifetime performance.

Monitoring Sow Body Condition Throughout Gestation
  • Ensuring sufficient back-fat levels at mating, day 30, day 80 of pregnancy and farrowing will help improve sow performance through numbers of piglets born alive and milk production.
  • Sow back-fat levels should be above 16mm (body condition score 2 – 3) from day 30 of pregnancy onwards.
  • Older sows are more likely to have insufficient body condition and so need to be managed carefully to recoup any lost condition in early gestation (before day 30).

 

Body Condition Scoring
  • Regular body condition scoring using a simple tool such as (Patience and Thacker, 1989) shown below can help to monitor sow condition.
  • The sow back-fat level is visually assessed from behind, from shoulder to flank along the spine.
  • Body condition calipers and ultrasound can also be useful tools to help understand the changes in back fat levels throughout the sow production cycle.
  • Fluctuations are to be expected, but overfat sows (score 5 (>23mm)) and thin sows (less than score 2 (<15mm)) will not perform to their genetic potential and should be noted for discussion with the nutritionist or vet.

 

Safeguarding Sow Performance
  • Close monitoring of body condition can help highlight any potential issues before performance is lost.
  • Meriden-Stim has been shown to enhance sow feed intake during lactation and help maintain body condition throughout the production cycle (Tan et al., 2015).
  • Successful management of sow body condition can help reduce sow mortality and lameness, this helps improve the reproductive performance of your herd.