Farmer Focus: Shredded paper in pig pens reduces crushing

After a week of wet weather I got the sprayer out again and caught up with the winter cereal spraying, just giving myself time to pack my bag to go to the Pig & Poultry Fair.

We have just had a new programme installed in our Pondis wet feed system that sends hourly feed information to our Farmex ventilation recording system.

This is a new concept that allows feed intakes to be measured alongside temperatures and energy use in a farm environment. The next step is to add an in-pen, free-access weighing crate so growth can be recorded daily, too.

With this information we will be able to experiment better with feed and temperature control in a controlled manner and be able to see daily changes. This has taken a lot of time and effort by Pondis, Farmex and James Buckingham, our wet feeding and ventilation supplier.

We have been asking for something like this since the new building went up a couple of years ago, but it seems to have been worth the wait. We just go into the online site and the information is easy to see and understand, and we will be able to share it with our nutritionist and get better value from the feed and buildings.

However, this is still a work in progress as we are the first unit to be able to use the programme in this way – a bit of a guinea pig you might say.

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We did a trial using shredded paper in the farrowing pens with a PhD student during the winter. Her results showed that it helped reduce crushing in the first few days, so we have continued to use it, but found in the fully slatted pens the paper goes through the slats quite quickly when the newborn piglets move around, so we now put cuttings of carpet down first and put the paper on top.

This seems to work well with piglets lying on the carpet away from the sow and out of danger. This should continue to drop our pre-weaning mortality.

Danny Skinner farms 440 sows selling finished pigs through Scottish Pig Producers. He runs 125ha at home and rents a further 50ha, growing cereals for home mixing.

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