Housing change sees slight performance dip
ACCOMMODATION changes mean pigs have been on the move at Whitewool Farm since the beginning of this year. Sow performance has dipped slightly, as they have adapted to loose housing, but this has been more than compensated for by improved growth and sale weights of offspring.
Previously housed in stalls, Januarys stall and tether ban meant sows had to move into straw-based kennel-type accommodation in groups of six, says Jamie Butler. "Sows had to adapt to eating in groups of six whereas before they were individually fed.
"We experienced more returns and variable litters because sows were not used to the system." Before the move, sows averaged 27.3 pigs reared a year, but this fell to 25.1 in the new accommodation.
However, despite numbers of pigs sold falling from 8650 in the year to August 1998 to 8373 for the same period this year, the amount of meat sold from the unit has risen slightly from 570 to 587 tonnes, according to Mr Butler.
"Our contract allows a maximum limit of 84kg deadweight. Average carcass weights have risen from 68kg in August 1998 to 71 kg in 1999, although average days to slaughter is 143 in both cases."
Improved grower housing with fan-assisted, automatically controlled natural ventilation and a move to wet feeding have contributed to improved growth rates which have led to higher slaughter weights.
But Mr Butler and unit manager Rob Barnet are still keen to get sow production figures back to where they were. "Recently the number of returns has fallen. It took a while to get feeding right.
"When sows first moved, all were fed the same ration. An extra bin transferred from old grower accommodation when growers moved to improved housing in July meant pre-service sows could be given a separate service ration which is improving fertility," says Mr Butler. *