Show must still go on…
Time is running out for pig units to convert from stalls and tethers. In the first of a series following a conversion from conception to completion, Jonathan Riley considers the decisions needed before planners are called in.
MAINTAINING long-term productivity should be the main aim when considering alternatives to stalls and tethers.
Breckland Farms manager Nick Manderfield is in the process of converting dry sow housing on a number of the companys Norfolk and Suffolk-based breeding units.
"At one site the clear span building used to house sows was in relatively good condition and the design leant itself to conversion to large straw yards," says Mr Manderfield.
"Access to the building was good and the only conversion necessary was to add a lean-to as a dunging area. We already had experience of electronic sow feeders and the system suited the site while allowing us to control feed individually," he says.
In contrast at the companys 520-sow, Mundford Farm site, the age and condition of the stall houses meant they needed replacing.
However, loose housing was already used in the service house which was in good condition and could be maintained. And the house had been working well for a number of years, explains Mr Manderfield.
"The main aim for the unit was to incorporate the new housing into the system without disrupting productivity. So the decision to keep the service house – but to construct new buildings to replace stall housing – was taken."
Straw was favoured because of its association with animal welfare. In making the decision to use straw the ability to source, and handle straw was considered and an outlet for the muck secured.
A major factor was to maintain the same service regime of 24 sows served a week.
"With this many sows moving through the system a group feeding system such as a trickle feeder was suitable because enough sows were served for them to be split into three groups according to condition," explains Mr Manderfield.
"This allows a greater degree of control over condition than is possible with dump or spin feeders in larger groups.
"As the farm staff are very much involved with the day-to-day running of the unit they were consulted on the system design. And they favoured the trickle feeder because of its simple design and construction and because the group size dovetailed with the existing service regime.
So planning permission was sought for a trickle feed system and accommodation for 304 sows," he says.
Mundford Farm herd manager Eric Nye (right) and Brecklands Farms manager got together with staff to say which feed system suited the site.
• Buildings needed replacing.
• Straw was favoured.
• Existing service regimessuited small groups.