TN60 in South Africa: More output with less input

Spitskop Farm is a 1600-sow unit situated near Bronkhorstspruit in South Africa. The farm, built in 2011, is one of five sow units owned by GHB Farms. GHB Farms, a family business founded by Gerard Braak Sr. in the early 1950’s, grew to be one of the largest commercial farms in South Africa. Business activities are not limited to pig farming and include involvement in Topigs Norsvin genetics and Eskort, a meat processing plant producing a range of pork products to the retail sector.

TN60 gilts were introduced into the South African market in 2015. With production kicking off in 2016, excitement ran high with these new sows entering farrowing houses across the country. Spitskop is one of those farms.

Since 2013 when the unit came into production, Marius Pretorius, has been the manager. The Farrow-to-Wean unit buys 12-week-old replacement gilts from Topigs Norsvin South Africa. After weaning, piglets are sent to the Wean-to-Finish unit.

The team of GHB Farms: from left to right Dries du Plessis, Gerard Braak Jr., Gerard Braak Sr and Carl Braak
Change in management

At Spitskop the arrival of the new genetics did not just bring a different colour ear tag to the farm. Management and feeding had to be adapted to fit the TN60. With the existing gilt rearing programme, faster growth rates were achieved with the TN60. This created the need for adjustments to diets and feeding levels to keep the weights and backfat within the specified targets. Gilts are also inseminated a week older than before.

The largest differences were seen in the farrowing houses due to the TN60’s higher production. The animals, first and older parities, have lower intake than the Topigs 40 sows, the genetics used before the TN60, but with higher output. Lactation diets and feed curves were adjusted to meet these requirements.

Apart from a slightly longer gestation period and animals requiring about a half day longer to come in heat after weaning, there are no differences in the insemination and dry sow phases.

Results Spitskop farm
Weaned per sow29 piglets
Cycle index2.52
Farrowing rate92%
Live born/litter13 piglets
Weaned/litter11.5 piglets
Weaning age21.2 days
Already close to 30 piglets

2016 was a year for adaptation to the TN60. Now that the systems are rolling, there are all smiles when the production figures of the last month are updated on the whiteboard in the office. Weaned/sow/year is closing in on 30! The herd currently comprises 70% TN60s.

Looking at the effect of the introduction of TN60 it can be concluded that farrowing rates have improved. The number of live born and subsequently weaned piglets per litter is climbing. And there is a steady downward trend in pre-wean mortality. If the available data of the TN60 are used as a prediction for the future, then the prospects look very good. Our dream of achieving over 31 weaned piglets/sow/year has become a realistic target.

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