22 November 1996

Extra care vital for outdoor pig winter

Careful preparation for winter is essential for both stock and staff on outdoor pig units. Jonathan Riley reports

EVEN on ideal outdoor sites some adjustments for winter are needed, maintains Chris Fogden, who runs 600 PIC Camborough sows on very light soil at Fakenham Magna, Suffolk, where rainfall is only 550mm (21.6in).

During winter Mr Fogden provides fresh straw every day to help piglets and sows keep warm and prevent draughts in huts. Some straw is spread outside the hut entrance so that some mud is cleaned off the sows feet when she returns to the hut after feeding.

"We can use a sow roll fed straight off the floor because the soil rarely gets so muddy that we lose feed," says Mr Fogden. But he still spreads feed on a different area of the paddock each day to reduce the amount of trampling on a single area.

An extra 0.5kg a sow a day is fed to maintain sow condition and milk yield in freezing conditions and in wet and windy weather, which Mr Fogden says can be as chilling to the sow as low temperatures.

"Maintaining a water supply is vital and troughs should be large enough to contain 24 hours worth of water and checked twice a day."

"The most valuable piece of equipment is a bowser, which should be kept full and, when possible, stored in a barn so that it does not freeze. "Water pipelines laid out across the field will inevitably freeze and thawing them is a waste of time on freezing days. It is far easier to haul water and fill troughs."

But the units performance depends on good observation from dedicated and skilled staff, who should not be overlooked when planning for winter, he says.

"Adequate equipment so that routine tasks do not take all day and provision of facilities for staff to keep warm at breaks are as important as extra provisions for the stock."

Good access to paddocks is vital so that feed can be spread on a different area each day to reduce the effect of trampling.


WINTER MANAGEMENT


&#8226 Place huts with backs to prevailing wind.

&#8226 Insulated huts help in extreme conditions.

&#8226 Keep water bowser on hand to fill troughs.

&#8226 Ensure adequate provision for stock carers.