What is a good rearing of gilts, in such a way that she will have a good long-term performance as a sow with a good health and well-being? To answer that question Wageningen UR and Topigs Norsvin have compared different rearing methods for gilts on Swine Innovation Centre Sterksel. The results have been incorporated into a handbook and a flyer with tips and recommendations for successfully keeping rearing gilts. The project was commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Product Board for Livestock and Meat.
Since 2013 all sows need to be accommodated in group housing within 4 days post-insemination until 1 week before farrowing. One of the success factors for group housing is a good rearing of the gilts. To answer the question what is a good rearing, in 2011 a project was started that consisted of two parts:
- Research on Swine Innovation Centre Sterksel to the influence of mixing moment, space allowance and enrichment on behaviour, leg soundness and production of gilts till first weaning.
- Writing a manual and flyer about rearing of gilts.
Results research VIC Sterksel
The expectation was that the social skills of gilts would improve by mixing them at an early age (14 days after birth), by more frequent mixing, by additional living space from day 14 after birth to day 232 and by extra chew and carry materials. Improved social skills of gilts was expected to result in less fighting, less stress and less leg problems in group housing with older sows during early gestation. The results showed that in the current experiment with 6 gilts per pen during rearing and using a feeding station during gestation, the treatments did not lead to the expected positive effects on the behaviour and the legs of the gilts during early gestation. An important finding was that mixing the rearing gilts at an age of 202 or 232 days combined with a change of the feeding system (of long trough to feed station) resulted in a clear reduction in feed intake and growth of the animals.
Manual and flyer
In the Manual is described what factors are important in the rearing of gilts. The manual includes practical and technical knowledge which is relevant to the pig farmer. The emphasis is on practical application, supplemented with some background information. The manual is intended as a reference guide and as a source of technical information. The flyer contains tips and recommendations for successfully keeping rearing gilts.