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TN70 brings the Finnish pig production into a new era

October 25, 2016

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In 2015 both small and large farms in the Optipossu Development Group showed a clear jump in weaned piglets per sow per year. Ulla Ketola, Category Manager producer services of HKScan  “On average we went up by 1 piglet per sow in one year. Never before have we seen such an improvement in our results. At first we did not believe it.’’

Plus one piglet in 2015

Ulla Ketola monitors the results of 74 farms with in total almost 25,000 sows. This is 85% of all sows present in the HKScan production system. About 75% of the sows are of the new TN70 cross. Production of weaned piglets per sow improved from 27.5 to 28.5 and at the larger farms, 23 units with about 20,000 sows, it even reached an average of 29.4. It is expected that production will continue to increase on the farms as more and more sows will be replaced by TN70 that will produce fourth and following litters.

Effects of introduction of TN70 (based on parity 1 tot 3 in 2015):

  • Weaned piglets per sow/year: + 1.0 piglet
  • Farrowing %: + 2/+7%
  • Life born/litter: + 1.5 piglet
  • Weaned/litter + 0.8 piglet
  • Litters per sow per year: + 0.02
  • Lifetime production sow: + 9.5 piglet

In general, Finland has two types of pig farms: small farms with 100-150 sows and larger specialised farms with over 800 sows. Ketola: ‘’We see clear improvements in production on both types’’. On the smaller farms we even see an improvement of 2 weaned piglets per sow. This is because with the introduction of the TN70, farmers switched from traditional own breeding to the purchase of hybrid sows.

This rise in production is bringing the Finnish pig production into a new era. Over the past few years the industry has developed rapidly due to investments in better technology and better advisory services. The number of piglets weaned per sow has grown from 24.6 in 2008 and 26.7 in 2011 to an average of 28.5 in 2015.

10 percent extra in 2 years

The influence of the TN70 is clearly noticeable in the first quarter of 2016 as well (see graph). The larger farms realised 2.7 piglets more weaned than in the same months of 2014. This is roughly a 10% production improvement in just 2 years.


Management needs to adapt

The superb improvement with the TN70 does not come automatically. TN70 is a different kind of genetics. Ulla Ketola sees that at several moments in the production the animal needs another approach. “It starts with the rearing of the gilts. Sometimes farmers tend to inseminate the gilts too early. This is because without the right feeding the gilts grow too fast. The gilt sooner reaches the weight where normally first insemination takes place. To avoid this and other problems farmers need to feed the young gilts according to the recommendations provided by Topigs Norsvin.’’

Advisor Ketola sees also that sows show their first heat earlier. This means that farmers have to adopt other working schemes for oestrous detection and that working schemes in general change.

Lower piglet mortality

One of the surprises that Ketola’s team sees is that the number of dead born piglets does not increase. That is something you would expect with larger litters. “We see even fewer dead born. The sow farrows really easily.”

The extra numbers of piglets born on the farms mean that weaning barns are getting fuller, which is a risk for the quality of pig produced. At present, the economic situation is poor and farmers are finding it difficult to invest in new buildings. Ketola sees that farmers are thinking about expanding capacity or even starting to reduce the number of sows. “They can produce the same number of piglets with fewer sows. The production cost drops per sow when sows produce more piglets. That is a positive thing for the cost price.’’

The higher production of the sows also means that feeding of the sow needs extra attention. Feed levels need to go up and extra care needs to be taken with the quality of the feed. All of these factors require changes to the management on farms and the advisory team of HKScan are paying full attention to this.

The piglets, even with the larger litters, are born with a high weight and they are vigorous and uniform. This is the perfect start for a successful finisher stage. HKScan is still collecting data from the finisher phase and it does not have enough information yet to provide figures. But in general it is clear that offspring of the TN70 show higher daily gain.

Ulla Ketola concludes that the introduction of the TN70 has caused a big change in Finnish pig production. We have substantially increased production per sow. This makes our cost price lower and more in line with the rest of Europe. The new sow also means we need to take a look at feeding and other management issues on the farms. The TN70 is different than the genetics used before and the higher production leads to new challenges. It is clear for Ketola: “Our farmers are happy with the introduction of the TN70. It is seen as a big help to stay competitive.’’