7 November 1997

Careful planning makes for a smooth transition

Transferring sows from stalls

to loose yards requires

careful planning and

management to avoid falls

in performance.

Jonathan Riley reports

COMMUNICATION between pig unit staff and accurate record-keeping is vital during the transition from stalls to loose housing to reduce the impact of a new environment on pig performance and stockmanship.

The change over between accommodation could take over three months, according to ADAS pig business consultant Mike Brade.

He suggests that during this period – where a new environment and new working procedures are involved – mistakes are bound to occur which may cause extra stress, embryo losses and reduced performance.

"Any mistakes must then be discussed by the whole team to ensure that they are rectified."

When possible he recommends that stockmen should be trained or sent to gain experience on nearby farms before they have to run their own new system.

"On units where new accommodation is being built on a greenfield site, producers have the opportunity to keep pigs in stalls until the building is completed," explains Mr Brade.

However, he reports that some producers are trying to transfer the whole herd into new buildings in one move.

"This must be avoided and sows should be moved in small groups," says Mr Brade.

"Sows must also be moved well after insemination to avoid stress occurring while embryos are implanting."

He suggests producers wait until sows are 42 days in pig before moving them over into new accommodation in weekly service groups.

"Where ESFs and large group systems have been installed, adequate training of sows is impossible if the whole herd has to adapt to feeders at the same time."

Where floor feeders are used, Mr Brade says pigs need less training, but staff should monitor and record feeding behaviour to ensure all sows are eating.

Feeders should also be checked to ensure they are delivering the programmed feed level.

As sows enter the new system the temperature in the building must also be monitored and recorded; where small groups are kept in large yards it may be necessary to provide more straw initially so that pigs can keep warm.

"Where buildings are to be converted the problem of finding alternative accommodation exists during building work. Pigs may have to be housed in small areas all over the farm and sustaining production can then be very difficult."

Pre-planning is, therefore, vital and watering and feeding arrangements must be considered well ahead of moving the pigs and geared to individual pig condition.

Feeding arrangements must also be sustainable and minimise labour use, with adequate trough space provided to limit aggression.

MANAGING THE TRANSITION

&#8226 Ensure adequate training.

&#8226 Move pigs in small groups.

&#8226 Accurate record-keeping.