Accommodation under observation

13 July 2001

Accommodation under observation

REVIEWING how pigs flow though the Hill House Farm unit was the starting point in putting the ideal management strategy for reducing disease into practice.

The unit wasnt suited to a three-week batch management system, but management of pigs in weekly batches is possible even when maintaining a continuous flow through the unit, says Robin Brice.

With peak mortality occurring in weaner pens, getting management right at this stage was deemed critical. Staff had three aims – to minimise mixing, to allow pigs to stay in weaner accommodation for 4.5 weeks and to wean one weeks piglets into one room.

It was deemed best to wean up to two litters into one pen, without sizing them or splitting the sexes, says Mr Brice. This allowed 0.25-0.3sq m/pig (2.7-3.8sq ft). But he wanted them to stay in these pens for 4.5 weeks to reduce stress at the critical stage of 3.5 weeks post-weaning, when pigs are prone to problems.

To continue to have three days for cleaning pens, an extra weeks worth of accommodation had to be found. Although not ideal, a building previously used as overflow housing for all ages of pigs was converted. Without being sure this practice would work, it was difficult to justify more than a minimal investment in housing, he says.

Weaner pigs also have a diet which never changes and ad-lib access to feed is vital. "Trough space is more important when weaning whole litters because it must allow them to continue to all feed at the same time."

Mr Brice adds that pigs can also suffer with PMWS at the grower stage. Mixing pigs is, therefore, also avoided at this stage, but is practised as necessary. Following this, pigs are not mixed again.

In a change to previous practice, grower pens are also cleaned, power-washed and disinfected between batches and pens are filled to minimise contact between different age groups. One side of each building acc-ommodates two weeks worth of pigs.

"When scraping out and feeding, staff now work from the youngest to the oldest pigs."

The same practices have been applied in rearer and finisher accommodation.

Mr Brice says that washing out finisher pens for the first time may be time-consuming, but it will take less time when done after each batch.

The units four staff now spend far more time power-washing pens, but the benefits are clear, says unit manager Adrian Scarffe. "Now we would never dream of moving pigs into a dirty pen."

Staff also find the buildings have less dust, making the environment better for pigs and staff, and vermin have little chance to infect buildings.

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