15 New Born Piglets
This is one of our Mainline sows who recently had fifteen live piglets and two dead. That’s an excellent piglet count and an excellent live birth rate. Not every ovum fertilized gestates. Not every fetus gets born. Not very born piglet lives. Most deaths happen in the first 48 hours as the piglet switch over from live support by their mother to having to breath and do other vital things on their own. Not everyone is born perfect.
In the picture above they’re just born. Three days later they’re all doing great. That too is unusual and most excellent. With a large litter like that it would not be surprising to have some deaths during the first two days as the piglets have to live in the outside world and compete with each other.
We don’t crate our sows. Not during gestation and not during farrowing. Good sows nest well, lay well, farrow well, milk well and mother well. I select hard for these traits. This lady has proven herself so she will see many more years on our farm and it is likely some of her daughters will too.
This is her third litter so she is called a parity three sow or P3. As a general rule gilts, new mothers, have fewer piglets and then they go up about half to one piglet with each parity. Eventually when they get old and near the end of their fertility their litters drop to four, then two or one piglet. Then they stop heating and stay open. That is the end of the breeding line – generally around four to six years, sometimes longer, in exceptional cases much longer. This is with big farm pig breeds that can break the 1,000 lb barrier with little fat on them. The old saying is that dogs age about seven times faster than humans. From my observations I would say that pigs age about ten times faster.
A more typical count of piglets for a gilt is six to eight piglets and then rising into the low teens. We’ve seen many in the high teens and even 23 in a litter. That is extremely unusual!
Don’t count your piglets before they are weaned. For that matter, don’t count your pigs before you get them to butcher. Gestation takes four months (114 days) to get to this stage where the piglet emerges into the outside world. About another six weeks to gets it to weaning. Weaning is a stressful time for piglets as they transition off their mother’s antibody rich milk. Then there is another five months to get to market weight when they find out if their in the breeder track (5% of gilts, 0.5% of boars) or the feeder track in the school of life. Those are actually better odds then out in the wild (perhaps 2% for gilts, 0.1% for boars). It’s hard being a guy either way.
Johan on the post Wee-Wee-Weaning All the Way Home asked:
Lets say you need to produce 25 piglets per week throughout the year, how many sows and boars will you use?
You might figure:
P = number of pigs you want to sell annually
L = Litter count born alive (e.g., 8 piglets per farrowing)
Y = Litters per year per sow (2 is a good figuring number)
D = Survival rate from birth to market (most congenital deaths are in first 48 hrs, most survive post weaning acclimatization)
S = number of sows you need
C = sow to boar ratio = 10 is a good number to use
B = number of boars you need unless you’re doing AI.†
S = -Int(-P/D/L/Y)
B = -Int(-S/C)
P = 25 piglets/wk x 52 weeks = 1,300 piglets/year
=> 91 sows and 10 boars
There are fractions in there but partial pigs are not very useful. The rounding up by negated Int gives you a margin of error. e.g., 5.5 becomes 6 and 0.5 becomes 1.
D, the survival rate to market, is the biggest variable. That’s mostly you managing the herd. Good genetics, biosecurity, feeding, health, protection from predators are all factors that will make a difference.
L, litter count, makes a big difference too. Research I’ve read suggests that litter count is strongly controlled by environmental and management factors such as good diet, low stress, not getting diseases, etc.
Plug this into a spreadsheet and you have the barest start of a business plan. Careful not to use too sharp a pencil. Reality will be different.
There’s another variable T, Time to Market, to consider of how fast the animals get to market. Balanced commercial hog feeds and top genetics generally get you there the fastest at the highest cost. The commercial hog feed of corn/soy grains also tends to produce a lower quality pork higher in Omega-6 fatty acids and lower in the heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
Pure pasture is the slowest, leanest and lowest cost route. The meat will be good but lean with not a lot of marbling due to the low calorie nature of most pastures. There are many good feeds that can supplement or replace grain bringing pasture growth rates up on part with grain diets and boost calories to give marbling. Boosting the meat with dairy in particular, such as the whey we use, seems to give a superb flavor. Some supplements to consider that you might be able to produce yourself or obtain locally: dairy, eggs, apples, spent barley, pumpkins, turnips, etc. See the Pig Page and follow the feed links.
Time to market tends to be critical to minimize for confinement operations and less of an issue for pasture based farms. Some mix between the extremes is a good place to end up. It all depends on your speed and quality goals for your farm.
See, algebra’s fun!
Outdoors: 4°F/4°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/62°F
Daily Spark: Genetics are where the math meets meat.
†Before you get a boar ask yourself, farmer, “Do you need a boar?” Getting a boar for a single sow is rather expensive. In fact, these big boys eat a lot of food so it takes a lot of piglets to justify a boar. I figure one per three sows if by land (pasture) and six sows if by seed (grain fed) makes him economical. Do your figuring to check with your situation. One boar can service up to about 15 sows with ease depending on the timing of their heats.