Cargill and Carthage look to plug knowledge gaps in sow nutrition and health

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Jevtic
© GettyImages/Jevtic

Related tags sow nutrition lactation gestation

Cargill and Carthage Veterinary Services have entered into a multi-year agreement aimed at expanding commercial sow nutrition and health research.

The agreement brings together Cargill’s expertise in nutrients and animal nutrition with Carthage’s experience in animal care, research, and operational expertise. 

The partners have three main objectives:

  • Optimize sow performance and health
  • Deliver more and healthier pigs into the pork supply chain, and
  • Support producer success/profitability.

There is a knowledge gap within the swine industry around delivering the best nutrition and conditions for females to optimize performance from gilts, said the companies.

“Sow research at this scale is extremely limited in the industry,”​ says Brent Frederick, swine innovation lead, in Cargill’s animal nutrition business. “It’s expensive, time-consuming work, and given the economics of pork production today, the near-term ROI just isn’t there for producers to invest on their own.”

The research alliance, Cargill told us, will look at elements like determining how to feed sows to optimize the number of piglets as genetics advance, how to treat the sow to influence subsequent effects on piglet quality, and how to optimize sow health and longevity in the herd.   

Trial objectives 

The agreement includes four to five research studies per year, with the first of these trials set to start in September this year. The companies said they will share key insights from the trials with the wider industry.

"The timeline for the release of results is still to be determined. Communication strategy will be dependent on area of work and the trial,"​ said a spokesperson. 

The studies are set to look at diet formulation, innovative solutions through micronutrition, use of technology and operational interventions. Data points will include extensive measurement of gestation and lactation feed intake of individual sows, litter weights, individual pig weights, pre-wean mortality and other parameters relevant to the trial objectives.

Beau Peterson, general manager for Carthage Veterinary Services, said that large scale, commercial research is an important step in evaluating new technologies and management strategies for swine production. “We’re executing scientifically sound trials ranging from 200 to 400 sows per treatment, with commercially-relevant genetics, in a commercial environment, allowing us to produce results that can drive decision making immediately in commercial production systems.”

Investment in sow research facilities 

Trials will be conducted at Carthage’s facilities in Illinois.

In addition to its existing sow research facility, the animal health group revealed that it is investing in a new barn expected to open in November. Both facilities will include lactation rooms with up to 56 crates, and multiple feed lines for all phases capable of delivering distinct or blended test diets.

“Having a committed partner like Cargill allows us to invest quickly and confidently in this additional sow research infrastructure,”​ said Peterson. “Commercial sow research facilities with dedicated research personnel and equipment are fairly rare in the industry, and we are very excited to be adding to our capabilities through this partnership to create even more opportunities to deliver innovation that will help drive the industry forward.”

Carthage, on the basis of the alliance with Cargill, will also expand its sow research staff from 12 to 18 individuals including scientists and in barn research professionals.

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