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Modern amenities for the modern pig

June 18, 2018

Today's pigs have many advantages over those of the past, leading to improved performance and health, along with better profitability for producers.

Today’s pigs have come a long way from those of even 20 years ago. A better understanding of genetics, nutrition and substantial research have all played a significant role in improved performance, reproduction and overall swine health. So, it begs the question: Have swine housing and management technologies kept pace with the modernization of today’s pig?

According to Steve Toft, Hubbard Feeds swine specialist, they have. We sat down with Steve at the 2018 World Pork Expo to collect his insights.

What’s new in housing, equipment, technology or swine management that’s leading to improved performance and animal comfort?

In wean-to-finish barns, there seems to be greater focus and a higher level of intensive care given in the first few weeks after arrival. Examples include:

  • Brooders: These lamps are designed to increase comfort and growth rates in pigs by keeping them warm and reducing stress.

  • Comfort mats: This addition can significantly reduce the number of pigs commonly lost during farrowing by keeping crates warm, dry, safe and clean.

  • Gruel feeders: This type of feeder is commonly considered the fastest and best way to get problem fallback pigs eating and drinking properly after weaning.

  • Nipple bars: This innovation provides an extra water source for pigs starting on wet/dry feeders. 

  • Pulling pigs: Pigs that are falling behind in terms of weight or health are removed from their group and placed in the fallback pen, so they can receive more specialized care.

Multiple hand feedings are also being conducted several times per day in an effort to stimulate pigs and get them onto feed quickly. Drip valves with nozzles above the cup waterers are also helping to provide ample, cool and fresh water to pigs for the first few days after arrival.

Historically, ad-lib sow feeding — where, as the name implies, the sow can manage her own consumption — in lactation has been a successful tool for maximizing sow performance. Manufacturers are improving these feeders to make them easier to manage and utilizing sensors and electronic controls to monitor intake.

Farrowing crate flooring has also come a long way with cast iron and tribar. This modern flooring features larger, solid, flat surfaces (compared to woven wire), which provide better sow comfort.

LED lights have made a dramatic improvement to swine barn lighting in the last few years, saving electricity and providing a safe, well-lit environment for both pigs and herdsmen.

In addition, better transport trailers have been designed for pigs, which lowers stress while loading/unloading and during transport. They have improved ramps and doors, better airflow and floors for traction, are well-lit and have on-board cooling systems.

What management strategies are producers implementing to create the best environment for their pigs?

  • Air filtration: Producers are investing in sow barn filtration technology, especially in moderately hog-dense areas. This has been helping to reduce the spread of disease.

  • Ventilation: New control systems are available, which provide more information, are considered failsafe, and offer remote monitoring capabilities to ensure optimal environmental conditions.

    • There is also a trend of increasing ventilation rates when feeding high, lean, fast-growing genetics. Tunnel-ventilated barns are the most common type. These facilities utilize ceiling inlets and fans to create uniform air distribution to aid in cooling pigs down during warm weather.

These are just a few examples of the many ways that producers and industry experts are working to keep swine management practices up to date. Perhaps you found yourself nodding in agreement with the practices utilized on your farm or maybe you discovered some new ideas that might improve your operation. Animal husbandry is certainly fast-evolving and I expect this trend to continue for years to come.

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