15 August 1997

Thumbs-up for small groups

NEWLY weaned pigs kept in small groups and stocked more tightly outperform pigs in large nursery groups.

Thats according to a study conducted by pig scientist Paul Penny of Yorks-based breeders JSR Healthbred.

"More and more producers are removing pen partitions for newly weaned pigs and opting instead to keep them in large nurseries. But until now nobody has investigated the effect on performance," says Mr Penny.

In the JSR study, pigs weaned at about 7.5kg were allowed either 0.22m sq (2.37ft sq)/pig of floor space or 0.3m sq (3.23ft sq). Two different group sizes of 10 or 130 pigs were then kept at these space allowances.

"For the first week post weaning, pigs in groups of 10 with 0.22m sq of space had grew 70g a day faster than pigs held in nurseries of 130 pigs which were allowed 0.3m sq of floorspace.

"The difference in performance levelled out over the 33-day study but the tighter stocked, small groups weighed 22.6kg/head compared with 21kg for the larger group," says Mr Penny.

He suggests that the difference may be down to the closer proximity of water and feed to the lying area which means pigs have to move around less.n