Farmer Focus: Extra feed boosts piglet weights

In an effort to reduce pre-weaning mortality I have started feeding supplementary milk to piglets in the farrowing houses. This has worked best when fed to pigs from about one week old.

The milk will not keep fresh for long and must be drunk within a few hours – pigs must be at least a week old before they drink it up quickly enough. It has surprised me just how fast piglets learn to drink.

However, I need to watch out for scour, as the extra milk can cause this. Using dry disinfectant on the heat pads seems to keep this problem at bay. Large litters can definitely be helped with this extra milk and we have seen improvements in some litters, particularly those with 13 or more piglets.

The wet weather is preventing slurry spreading. Some farmers, including ourselves, are opting to use a local contractor with an umbilical system to spread slurry. This results in less damage to fields and faster spreading rates. Then, when the ground conditions improve, our trusty slurry tanker with trailing shoe will finish spreading on isolated fields. Our land is quite scattered. How nice it would be to have the farm in one block. It is a privilege very few have in this area of the country.

More articles from Andrew McCrea

More from our other Livestock Farmer Focus writers

Maintaining ventilation fail-safes was highlighted by one producer who described his dismay at losing 120 pigs because the fail-safe didn’t open following a power failure in the middle of the night.

Another local farmer was welding in one of his empty pig pens when methane in the slurry tank caught fire, almost setting fire to the whole building. Thankfully no workmen or animals were injured. However, these are stark reminders of the unseen dangers on all our pig farms.

Last week a local dairy farmer got the shock of his life when he discovered that someone maliciously opened his slurry store, releasing 400,000 gallons of cattle slurry into the nearby river. The local farming community has been shocked and is now extra vigilant in case the culprits might strike again.

My wood pellet boiler Renewable Heat Incentive application has been returned with a list of questions the length of my arm that needs to be answered before I can receive any payments. As with everything that’s worth having, we will have to put the effort in before we can receive the reward for our investment.

Andrew McCrea farms a 740-sow birth-to-bacon business and 150 beef cattle on 37ha. He is a DARD Focus Farmer and was 2010 Farmers Weekly Pig Farmer of the Year.