Dennis Bridgeford farms 50ha (125 acres) at Petley Farm in Easter Ross, about 40 miles north of Inverness. The farm comprises of a 480-sow indoor unit further 320 sows are run outdoors, with progeny sold at 7kg. The land not used for pigs grows spring barley for use in the farms mill-and-mix plant.
I HAVE never been totally happy with our weaning service performance in the indoor unit.
We were managing to get most of the sows re-served quickly but every now and then we would be left with two or three hanging back each week. Not only does that take up space in our serving accommodation but it soon starts to affect the service index.
The old system was to wean on a Thursday and start checking for oestrus on the Monday. We now wean on a Wednesday, giving the sow her full lactating ration in the morning and physically checking the sows for heat and running a boar through to stimulate them over the weekend ready for serving on the Monday morning.
We are managing to find the odd sow over the weekend, but the big advantage is that we are getting really strong heats on the Monday morning. To date we have no sows hanging back. But there is always one down side and, as the sows are due to farrow earlier in the week, it puts more pressure on farrowing accommodation.
The other tip I picked up on a recent trip to Denmark was how to improve hygiene in the farrowing rooms. We always power wash between batches and, on the whole, that works reasonably well. Now we still power wash but when the nursery pens are dry we liberally sprinkle a dry disinfectant.
That seems to tidy up any stubborn infections, and the initial response was quite dramatic. The first batch through weaned over 11 pigs a litter, and they looked tremendous.
Last years expensive capital project was to update our weaning accommodation. The walls were showing signs of age, the pen divisions were getting patchy and the feeders were past their sell-by date. We decided to install a Hampshire wet wean system at the same time as the refurbishment.
I can say with conviction that the initial effect on performance was absolutely staggering. We were getting newly weaned pigs growing on the first week of weaning at almost 300g a day. It was brilliant.
But, like all good things, it came to an abrupt halt. Almost overnight the pigs would not eat. They were lethargic and growth slowed to zero. To cut a long story short, we went back to basics, washed the tanks and pipes with dairy chemical, changed the feed type and introduced secondary feeders for a few days to stimulate the pigs, and we are off again. *
Several new tips picked up on a recent trip to Denmark are helping improve efficiency in Dennis Bridgefords indoor unit.