Gilt Watch®

Discover our Gilt Watch® programme, designed to help pig producers make informed and efficient business decisions on gilt management.

High cull rates in UK sows are costing producers large sums of money. Losing a sow prior to parity 3 and retaining less productive animals past parity 5 are all contributing to an inefficiency in production that could be costing UK producers between £30 million and £60 million per year.

Why should people care about gilt replacement rates?

The cost of buying a replacement gilt is not recovered until that sow reaches parity 2.4–2.6, i.e. parity 3 is the first profitable parity. UK replacement rates run at 56.38% (UK indoor herd) and 49.43% (UK outdoor herd) on average, with differences in the top 10% of UK producers. The top 10% indoor tend to have a higher replacement rate (61.52%) and the top 10% outdoor have a lower replacement rate (41.62%)

A replacement rate of 25% would provide significant savings, as can be seen by the table below.

Gilt Watch® herds/100 sows

Parity

1

2

3

4

5

Replacements

5

3

3

2

2

Weaned per litter

11.5

11.5

11.47

11.38

11.1

Retention rate (%)

95

92

89

87

85

Conventional herds/100

Replacements

8

12

9

9

11

Weaned per litter

11.5

11.5

11.47

11.38

11.1

Retention rate

91.97

80.51

71.25

61.94

51.25

Cost implications

Extra sows required over 5 parities

34

Cost per gilt at point of entry/service (£)

250

300

350

400

Total cost (£)

8,437.50

10,125

11,812.50

13,500

Cost/pig weaned (£)

1.48

1.78

2.17

2.37

For a 750-sow unit, these costs equate between £60,000 and £100,000 per annum in additional animals, across the UK herd of approx. 450,000 sows; this equates to between £30 million and £60 million per year.

Gilt Watch® Methodology

As an industry, we are failing to retain young sows in the herd. This leads to either a skewed parity profile, with older sows unable to be culled due to pressure to achieve service targets, or the added expense of bringing in extra gilts in anticipation of a higher failure rate. Although we know the main reasons for culling the young sows are generally fertility-related, before we can start to address the problem, we need to first understand why these young sows are failing on farm, hence Gilt Watch®.

  1. Gilt Watch® has recruited producers who are willing to demonstrate the impact of developing and implementing the best management practices for their unit, on overall herd productivity. The industry target is to:
  2. Retain 80% or more gilts from the original gilt intake, to the point of a successful PD at their 3rd gestation.
  3. Maintain good fertility and minimise empty days.
  4. Farrow with no evidence/minimal evidence of a ‘second litter drop’.

Gilt Watch® – Role of recruited producers: To demonstrate to the industry how managing their gilts by adopting ‘best practice principles’ can influence herd performance.

The recruited Gilt Watch® producers will be monitoring individual performance from cohorts of gilts over the prescribed period:

  1. Number culled and, importantly, reasons for culling.
  2. Performance efficiency with respect to empty days.
  3. Litter size at first and second parities.
  4. Gilt Watch® farms will meet twice a year to initially review performance and benchmark within the group.
  5. Gilt Watch® farms may have the opportunity to discuss their unit with the mentor producers, who will be invited to the Gilt Watch® benchmark events. Mentor Gilt Watch® producers:

Role of mentor producers: To use their experience in developing case studies and best practice guidelines.

  1. The mentor producers will be retaining 80% or more gilts from the original gilt intake, to the point of a successful PD at their 3rd gestation.
  2. Empty days will be minimal.
  3. They will show no evidence/minimal evidence of a second litter drop.

Gilt Watch® Early Findings

Explore how Gilt Watch® benchmarking has demonstrated that, despite the complexities of pork production, there are simple interventions and tasks that can have an impact on reducing the variation, increasing the efficiency of production. 

Learn more about the early findings and EUPiG case study

Gilt Watch® Early Successes

Gilt Watch® mentors have shown that controlling some of the processes around gilt selection, farrowing groups and nutrition by parity, substantial reductions in variation and performance can be achieved. Learn how a member of the Gilt Watch® programme undertook a process of standardising their farrowing groups in terms of numbers of services and parity profiles.

Learn more about the early successes of Gilt Watch®

From Gilt Watch® to SmartPork

Gilt Watch® demonstrated there are many solutions to improving overall gilt and sow retention but only when embedded across processes to produce marginal gains. What is needed is a how-to guide for getting from variation to standardisation. 

SmartPork will take the findings of Gilt Watch® and other programmes that looked at heavier weaner weights and combine them with lean management. Supported by a lean consultant proficient in agricultural production, producers will look at their processes and how to seek marginal gains (improvements) and, importantly, cement that practice as ‘standard’, i.e. how to standardise production processes. 

Learn more about applying Lean management to Gilt Watch®
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