Marking 50 years of breeding, the 19th annual JSR Technical conference examined future feed prices, how pig breeding is beating ozone erosion and reviewed a four-week rearing system helping a young Belgian producer to prosper.

A novel four-week rotation system is helping a young Belgian producer prosper on a one-man, 460-sow unit rearing the equivalent of 12,000 pigs/full-time employee to 25.5kg liveweight.

At 29 Wouter Sinnaeve of Woseco Farm, Ardooie, has achieved many milestones in a short career. With family help he’s built a modern 460-sow unit for E2300/sow place (excluding manure storage) that operates a four-week pig rotation system new to Belgium.

“The system is simple. It means I have one main task each of the four weeks and can be sure to focus on one aspect of breeding each day. It is a good routine which I like and works well,” he told delegates.

The dynamic is simple. Having been weaned three weeks earlier on a Monday, Week One sees sows return to heat on a Thursday and Friday when 100 sows are served allowing for 10% returns. “I don’t like to work long hours on a weekend so week-day service is preferred.”

Week Two is scheduled for farrowing. This allows Wouter to concentrate on piglet care in the important first 48hrs and sees 91 man hours accumulated – his busiest time.

In contrast week three is quieter. This is dedicated to delivering 25.5kg store pigs that have passed through weaner and first stage finisher accommodation at the unit before washing out. “These go to my father’s finishing unit where he takes over.”

Week four is the quietest at just 18hrs labour input. “In this week I am vaccinating piglets, preparing for weaning and doing any unit maintenance. And paperwork, of course,” he said.

“The system’s advantages means concentrating on individual tasks makes for a productive unit. It also means I don’t have to run as many boars as the service period is shorter and farrowing crates are occupied for a greater amount of time (13.0 farrowings/crate/year versus 10.9 on a normal system).

“Disadvantages mean you must pay close attention when serving large numbers of sows in a short period and when delivering piglets as each batch has weaning ages between 20-23 days.”