14 March 1996

New housing is phased in with no bad effects

Minimising the impact of new housing construction on sow productivity was the main aim for our featured conversion from stalls and tethers in Suffolk.

Jonathan Riley reports

TWO dry sow houses have replaced the existing stalls house at Breckland Farms, Suffolk, and careful planning was needed to ensure productivity did not suffer.

General manager Nick Manderfield explains that the first new house for 128 sows was to be built alongside one of the stall houses and so no sows had to be rehoused during its contruction.

This took place during the winter, but construction of the second building, to house 176 sows, meant moving pigs while existing accommodation was demolished so work was planned for the summer.

"This meant we could house sows in open barns which were cleared of straw before makeshift pens for 100 sows were erected," says Mr Manderfield.

Filled to capacity

All other space around the unit such as the new house, service area, farrowing pens and gilt yards were filled to capacity while the existing house was taken down.

Steelwork was removed by scrap merchants and the building shell sold as a standing item before the site was levelled and contract labour used to lay blockwork, footings, dung passages and floors.

Care was taken to achieve a 1 in 40 gradient for the pen floors. This means straw moves down the pen to the dung passage sufficiently slowly for an accumulation of clean straw to occur in the lying area so minimising straw use.

"We chose to insulate the roof of the building during construction as it was relatively inexpensive to do so at the time, and it would help to minimise some of the wider temperature fluctuations in both summer and winter," says Mr Manderfield. "All the metal work was galvanised to maximise the life of the equipment which added to the construction costs but is, in our experience, well justified."

Pens for the trickle feeder have been designed to hold eight sows so that the weekly service group of 24 can be divided according to size and condition into three pens. Gilts are penned in separate groups.

The trickle feed system is based on a conveyor delivering feed to a cylinder – its capacity can be adjusted by means of a slide. The cylinders in each pen must all be set at the same level so individual control is limited to pen groups only.

A slower conveyor taking the feed from the cylinder delivers the feed onto the floor in front of each sow at a rate that enables the slowest eater to receive her ration and not be disadvantaged.

Gilts receive about 2.25kg a day and sows 2.3-2.5kg a day – depending on condition of the group. At day 100 from service the ration is increased to about 3.5kg a day and the sows moved to the farrowing house – about one week before they are due.

At another Breckland farm site an ESF system has been installed. The transition from tether house to straw yards and individual feeders was simpler as sows were moved out of the existing house into one dynamic group in a barn while the building was converted to a straw yard with 40 to 44 sows a feeder.


GROUPHOUSING


Benefits

&#8226 Improved working environment

&#8226 More time to observe pigs

&#8226 Pregnancy testing easier

&#8226 Gilt training essential