Development of Training Tools for Gilt Selection

Ken Stalder, Faculty, Animal Science


Many swine producers are producing their replacement females through internal multiplication. Many of these producers have little, if any, training in the evaluation of feet and leg structure, feet and leg defects, and reproductive soundness. These factors contribute to high replacement rates of females in commercial swine breeding herds. Additionally, females with feet and leg as well as reproductive soundness problems contribute to increased mortality rates in commercial swine breeding herds. Very little funding is available to support development of training materials and dissemination of the educational tools to the masses.


The objective was to develop educational tools that would help producers do a better job of selecting replacement females with proper feet and leg structure that were reproductively sound. Additionally, we set out to partner with the National Pork Board and private industry to financially support the development of these tools.


A series of three posters were developed that depict examples of feet and leg structural problems and abnormalities to avoid as well as examples of proper feet and leg structure of replacement gilts. Additionally, a poster showing several reproductive deficiencies commonly seen in replacement gilts that producers should try to avoid. The pictures used in these tools were taken by a professional photographer from the National Hog Farmer to enhance the quality of photos used in the posters. The National Pork Board, the commodity group representing U.S. pork producers, funded the largest portion of the development of the posters. Additionally, the National Swine Registry, a body representing independent purebred swine breeding stock producers, funded a portion of the project as well. The poster also had support from the National Swine Improvement Federation, a non-profit organization of swine geneticists that develops standards for swine improvement. Lastly, Iowa State University and the Iowa Pork Industry Center supported the project through the expertise of its staff in selecting the appropriate animals and the photos that best illustrated various traits used in the posters. A pocket guide was also developed from the photos used in the posters. This pocket guide was designed to be used in the barns to assist a producer with making replacement gilt selection decisions. It was printed on heavy card stock, which is washable. In this manner, a producer can take the pocket guide to the barn to compare photos against a candidate replacement gilt when deciding if the gilt meets all selection criteria.


The posters were initially distributed as inserts to the January, February, and March issues of the National Hog Farmer magazine. Anyone receiving the National Hog Farmer popular press magazine, this would include all producers, allied industry, extension specialists, researchers, and anyone receiving the magazine, will receive the poster. Additionally, we have had many requests for additional copies. The requests have come from independent commercial pork producers, integrated pork production systems, commercial breeding stock companies, as well as producers from several other countries (Canada, Philippines, Vietnam, Australia, etc.). The pocket guides that were develop have been met with similar acceptance and are currently being used by producers, swine educators, and allied industry. Demand is one of the best measures of the success for the tools and certainly both the posters and pocket guides are in high demand. Additionally, many other private industry entities have inquired about sponsoring future reprints of the tools as well as expressing a desire to support any future development of similar educational tools.


108 -- Iowa Pork Industry Center

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