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The economics stack up when increasing sow litter size

7th September 2016

Additional margins of up to £338 can be achieved by increasing UK sow litter sizes to 21 piglets, ABN have revealed.

Using findings taken from a well-known, peer reviewed study* that looked into the variation of piglet birth weight and overall performance, Dr Steve Jagger, pig nutritionist at ABN, and his team have calculated the optimum economic margin for UK sow litter sizes.

“We’ve based the calculation on the number of piglets weaned, growth rates over a 23 week period and the value of the whole litter at 23 weeks, to identify the total margin per litter, and additional margin per sow,” says Dr Jagger.  

The results have shown that an overall financial benefit can be obtained by producing up to 21 piglets per litter, with typical mortality levels. “This can result in an additional margin per sow of £337.65, when calculated from a baseline of nine piglets.

“This offers a real opportunity for producers, particularly with the volatility in commodity and pig prices to contend with,” he adds. 

Dr Jagger explains that there is the associated risk that increasing litter sizes results in small piglets with a reduced chance of survival. Improving the viability of piglets from larger litters is clearly an area where further developments are required from both a genetics and nutrition point of view. 

ABN are continually investing into research, and part of this work is examining how to create a diet that is optimum for the modern sow, supporting them during gestation, as well as piglets at the point of birth.

“In conjunction with the University of Leeds, ABN and AB Neo are currently undertaking a four year PhD research project looking into the effect of maternal nutrition on piglet viability.

“We’ve identified that the best margin can be achieved by producing 21 piglets per litter. With the research that we are currently carrying out, we hope that this will go hand-in-hand to help increase piglet welfare and survival rates, and make these margins realistic on-farm,” says Dr Jagger.


* N. Quinioua ,*, J. Dagorna, D. Gaudre´ b (2002) Variation of piglets’ birth weight and consequences on subsequent performance. In Livestock Production Science 78 pg 63–70. 

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