November and December, 1999

Dear Editor:

We read the paper "Increasing the predictability of cloprostenol-induced farrowing in sows" (Kirkwood RG, Aherne F; Swine Health Prod. 1998; 6(2):57-59) with great interest. We are enthusiastic supporters of the periparturient biotechnique, with or without prostaglandins, and we strongly believe that biotechnical manipulation of parturition represents one of the best ways to reduce losses during the periparturient period in the sow. In our experience, administering a combination of prostaglandin and oxytocin at parturition increases production in our breeding units and decreases costs.

In our capacity as consultants, we have had vast experience (>1000 parturitions) within the past 15 years using prostaglandin to induce synchronized farrowings on day 113 of gestation, followed by oxytocin administered within 24 hours of the prostaglandin treatment. Because prostaglandins are expensive and oxytocin is much less costly (at least in our African and Eastern European units), we have been trying to give oxytocin to as many sows as possible to minimize the amount of prostaglandin used. Administering oxytocin reduces the cost of inducing parturition tremendously. We have observed that higher doses of oxytocin can have harmful effects and so we use very low doses of oxytocin to shorten the duration of group farrowings.

We believe it is a mistake to give the same amount of oxytocin to all sows regardless of their body condition, age, and parity.1 In our experience with smaller and thinner sows, 2-4 IU oxytocin administered within 24 hours speeds parturition, increases liveborn litter size, reduces intrapartum stillbirths and early postnatal losses (i.e., within 3 days postpartum), and decreases the incidence of mastitis metritis agalactia (MMA). Fat, large sows must be given oxytocin doses 6-10 IU in order to achieve positive effects for these parameters.

1. Bilkei G, Krueger. Der einfluss der padtussynchronisation mit alfaprostol und verschiedenen oxytozinmengen bei unterschiedlicher korperkondition auf die perinatale parameter der muttersau wien. Tierarztl Mschr. 1993;80:45-48

--G. Bilkei, PhD, DVM
Dübendorf, Switzerland

Dear Editor:

It has been interesting to follow the articles in SHAP and other publications, as well as the "Letters" segment of SHAP regarding proposed nomenclature applied to swine production systems. Having labored to explain this evolving technology for the last 10 years, I support these discussions, hopefully leading to standardization and common acceptance of definitions. With reference to the "Letters," which appeared in SHAP (Sept-Oct. 1999), I share a few brief thoughts and observations:

Site. Dr. Peter Davies's discussion itself is solid evidence why "site" is becoming increasingly inappropriate to use. The industry does not currently use the term in the same way we used it ten years ago. Its definition has eroded, changed, and evolved with the technology and hence is less than accurate--using the word "site" requires more explanation rather than less.

Tier. For those not closely associated with the evolution of this technology and terminology, Drs. Harris' explanation is enlightening. "Tier" is clearer than "site," and thus is a superior option in my mind. In retrospect, "tier" would have been (and probably still is) a better choice. I would not be opposed to embracing this term, though it may now be too late to restructure our vocabulary and thinking. When this process started, we were not anticipating nomenclature problems 10 years down the road.

Weaning age. Dr. Clark makes an excellent point. Including weaning age makes the term far more descriptive. Personally, I prefer the weaning range (e.g. 14-17days) because that is clearer still. Range gives you a sense of variability within the group, and variability determines (in some cases) success/failure. In my mind, maximum is a good second choice--it is shorter, easier perhaps, and almost as descriptive.

NurFin. Something about this terminology makes me uneasy. Perhaps it is too casual, too simplistic, unprofessional. In this case, we do not need to create a word to fit the situation. I suggest we simply abbreviate, using WFF (wean-to-finish facility). The abbreviation would be shorter, cleaner, and more descriptive--it tells you exactly what goes on there.

--Dr. Jer Geiger