Original Research

The influence of environmental temperatures on farrowing rates and litter sizes in South African pig breeding units

Leana Janse van Rensburg, Brian T. Spencer
Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research | Vol 81, No 1 | a824 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ojvr.v81i1.824 | © 2014 Leana Janse van Rensburg, Brian T. Spencer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 June 2014 | Published: 20 November 2014

About the author(s)

Leana Janse van Rensburg, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, South Africa
Brian T. Spencer, Department of Production Animal Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

The reproductive performance of pigs is one of the main determinants of the profit farmers make from pig production. This study was undertaken to describe whether periods of high environmental temperature have an effect on the farrowing rate, litter sizes and number of stillbirths in commercial breeding units in South Africa. Data were collected weekly from four commercial breeding units with good records from December 2010 to August 2012. These data included the number of sows mated, number of sows farrowed and number of piglets born alive, as well as the number of stillbirths. Note was also taken of whether environmental temperature control mechanisms were employed. Temperature data from weather stations within 100 km of the breeding units were obtained from the South African Weather Service. In all breeding units a decrease in farrowing rate following mating during severe average temperatures (> 30 °C) when compared to the farrowing rate following mating during mild average temperatures (< 22 °C) was observed. When mating occurred at higher temperatures, the resultant litter size was marginally decreased in the breeding units that did not employ environmental temperature control, but was unaffected in the breeding units that did. In all four breeding units the trend was for the average number of piglets born alive to increase as the environmental temperature around the time of farrowing increased and the trend in three of the four breeding units was for the percentage of stillbirths per litter to decrease with increased temperature around the time of farrowing. The most significant observation in this study was the trend for farrowing rates to decrease following inseminations during times of high ambient temperatures (> 30 °C). Environmental temperature control did not negate this effect, but the breeding units employing the environmental temperature control did show higher average farrowing rates overall.

Keywords

Seasonal infertility; Litter size; Farrowing rate; Environmental temperature

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