Ambassador: David Goodier, United Kingdom

Publication date: June 2019 | Theme: Precision production

Challenges: Increase gilt and sow performance

Farrow-to-finish producer David Goodier has reduced production costs per piglet by 4.9% through a system which monitors gilts at strategic points during their first cycle. The aim is optimise body condition and performance and improve young sow retention. 

It has benefits for sow lifetime productivity, while reducing the replacement rate of gilts and associated costs.

The system focuses on understanding changes in body condition to avoid animals being over or under-conditioned at key points in the cycle.



  • The number of pigs born alive per litter increased by 6.3%, from 12.7 to 13.5
  • The number of pigs weaned per litter increased by 8.3%, from 10.8 to 11.7
  • The number of litters per sow per year increased by 5.4%, from 2.2 to 2.32
  • Farrowing rate increased from 77.6 to 82.6%
  • Total costs after implementing the best practice were 4.9% lower per piglet than before, owing mostly to these improved performance parameters


  • Extra labour input of 8.5 hours per three-week cycle (1.5 minutes per weaned pig) which increased the time required per sow per year by 5.2%
  • The initial investment cost of the back fat meter for measuring the backfat thickness was £115 and the back fat scanner was £502

Innovation in practice

Back fat is measured on the P2 spot: 1.) at service 2.) when entering the farrowing room 3.) 18 days into lactation and 4.) at weaning. Gilt weight at service and weaning is also measured.

Measuring back fat thickness of gilts before farrowing can help identify any potential risks and enable the development of a peri-partum management plan or post-farrowing feeding regime. Measuring back fat thickness at day 18 helps evaluate a gilt’s capacity to sustain lactation. Supplemental milk or extra creep can be provided for the litter if required.

Body protein and fat need to be recovered after weaning to attain maximum body condition before subsequent farrowing. Sows which have suffered extreme body energy mobilisation during lactation can be identified and an appropriate feeding curve delivered to minimise the impact on second parity performance.

More about this best practice

To access more information, contact RPIG (United Kingdom): Ben Williams