Here are some key productivity issues that will help you to increase your herd’s productivity.

Gilt Development: Isolation and acclimation are two of the most important words in your gilt development program.  Understanding the importance, not only from the health standpoint, but also from the physiological development of your gilts begins here.  Gilts, once delivered, are often times handled as market hogs.  This mentality is setting your replacement animals up for failure.  Ensure your diets are balanced for maternal line growth and development, as well as having a solid understanding of your genetic line potential for maturity will greatly increase your chances for success.

Gilts should be a minimum of 230 days (7 1/2-8 months) of age or on their third heat cycle prior to mating.  Breeding gilts too early will result in high culling as well as early reproductive failure in the sow herd.  Know the age of your gilts and set your off-site isolation up for early “parade boar” exposure to track estrus cycles.  Understanding the importance of the replacement gilts role in your herd will increase the longevity of your sows as well as profitability advantages due to low culling and eliminating second parity dips in young females in the herd.

Estrus: Gilts can only remain ”tense” when expressing estrus for a limited time, after which they become refractory.  Imagine grabbing hold of an object so tight that your muscles begin to fail after 10-15 minutes and you reach a point of near physical exhaustion.  The key points here are allow your boar to only stimulate females you have personnel to cover, avoid refractory time, and make sure you have adequate boar exposure for all females that could be in heat and are just timid.  Ensure the boar is housed away from the breeding area, allowing exposure only to gilts being serviced.

Heat detection is critical to the success of your breeding herd.  Below are the signs to watch for when walking a parade boar or exposing gilts in a pen environment.


Ear erection




Stands to back pressure


Discharging clear odorless fluid


Vulva swelling/discharge


Seeks the boar


Mounting other gilts


Muscle tremors


Unwilling to move


Knowing these signs will be a valuable tool in finding gilts when they are in heat.

Housing: When considering how to house gilts think about this.  Gilts respond to positive stress a lot faster than negative stress.  When it is an option, keep gilts on feed high in energy, lysine and protein.

Pen housing will also create positive stress especially when it becomes necessary to mix pens.

Look at methods such as flushing, mixing, and lining gilts up next to wean sows prior to synthetic drug introduction.  Remember estrus will stimulate estrus.

Mating: When should you mate gilts and how often?  These are frequently asked questions in the breeding barn.

Gilts should be mated as soon as they express estrus.  For maximum chance of fertilization, repeat matings every 12-16 hours until she no longer stands.

Once semen is introduced it must travel to the egg in the uterine horn.  The dose that actually gets the female pregnant is unclear, but the one fact is that it does appear that each dose catches a few of the eggs with the last dose being most important.

Don’t be afraid to allow a gilt to be put away with one good service.  If she will not stand forcing second and third services can disrupt your first good service due to the uterus being unreceptive and vulnerable to organisms that could result in failure to conceive.  Focus on doing a good job the first time and let nature dictate the rest of the story.

Herd Management: Once the gilt is bred and locked up the most important part of gilt management begins.  Focus on condition, feeding, and most of all gilt health and comfort.  Being aware of the value of the replacement gilt is critical to being a successful farm.

Consult your veterinarian on high health gilt introduction, acclimization and vaccine protocols to ensure your herd entries are compatible from a health standpoint.  And if at all possible, avoid dropping gilts directly into the herd with no isolation or acclimation.  Setting gilts up for success will ensure the herd’s longevity and profitability.


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Copyright © 2002 Legred Swine Genetics, Inc.
Last modified: October 29, 2002