Nursery feed allocation

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I am reaching back several years to share an important lesson/strategy I learned and lived regarding nursery gain and feed allocation (there is a STOCKMANSHIP lesson in here as well!).

To fully understand the lesson here is a list of specifics:

  • The nursery has 20,000-plus capacity, four barns with connecting hallways, eight rooms per barn and capacity for 700 head per room
  • Site was stocked in 14 days contiguous. (two-plus rooms filled per day). Pigs weighed ±12 lbs. at 20 days of age. The site was emptied and washed prior to any new pigs.
  • PhD nutritionist, from the head shed, dictated total feed allocation per each phase           (which could not be changed even when begged)

Processes on the site were as follows:

  • Newly weaned pigs were gate-cut upon delivery into 80 percent of the pens per room, equal to 700. Subsequent deliveries were penned in the next empty pen and so forth.
  • Sorting consisted of pulling off smalls and grouping into remaining pens. One or two pens were left as “sick pens.”
  • Phase 1 feed was distributed evenly per pen and room (via feed cart). Phases 2-4 delivered via auger from outside bin (one bin per room)
  • Ship weights to finishers were typically 45-50 lbs. Smalls were held back until last day of shipment to put on as much weight as possible. The last two loads were ±32 lbs.

Process changes and subsequent results:

  • At the start of a new turn, pigs were unloaded and penned in room 4. Big pigs were hand sorted and sent to the end room (room 1). Smalls were sorted off next and left in room 4. The rest of the pigs were sent to rooms 2 and 3 and were gate cut. It’s worthy to note that the barn was filled in less than three deliveries or days.
  • The overview of each barn is as follows:
    • Rooms 1 and 8 have the biggest pigs (14 lbs. or more)
    • Rooms 2, 3, 6, and 7 have medium sized pigs (10-12 lbs.)
    • Rooms 4 and 5 have small pigs (less than 10 lbs.)
    • Rooms 1 and 8 were started on phase 2 feed via bin auger
    • Rooms 2, 3, 6, and 7 received three quarters of the phase 1 feed delivered via cart
    • Rooms 4 and 5 (the small pigs) are now fed nearly 5 lbs. of phase 1 (vs. 2 lbs. per pig )
    • Assuming 1:1 gain, these smalls will weigh nearly 14 lbs. when phase 2 is delivered, which is precisely the needed weight for optimum gain. These smalls were receiving no more than 1 lb. with prior processes.

Shipping weights told the tale:

  • The big pigs weighed ±55 lbs.
  • Medium pigs weighed upwards of ±48 lbs.
  • Smalls weighed 42 lbs. consistently! A 10-lb. gain from the previous process

The wrap up:

  • Feed cost per pig, phases 1-4, were unchanged (made the PhD very happy)
  • Market weights were greatly enhanced; the bottom fourth of the pigs were in the “market window” with full value pigs (each 1-lb. increase in nursery weights transfers to 3 lbs. gain in finishing)
  • STOCKMANSHIP plays in most notably with the sorted big pigs. These pigs often refuse to eat and need to be identified early on and tended to accordingly.
  • Labor early on (sorting the masses) is timely, but the rewards are highly beneficial

I will take up more of the cost and revenue enhancement in a later blog.

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Iowa  |  July, 31, 2013 at 09:14 AM

Congratulations on a job well done! We have for years sorted each delivery as we count, lots of work but we then can cheat the big ones and give smaller end more of step one and two feeds as well as more heat . Our gains are good (1.7 to 1.8 lb. / day Wean to Finish) are and death loss and subs % are low When compared to others getting the same pigs. Results have been very consistent. we do need to sell first sort at 265-270 do to the fact that pens with biggest at weaning are crowded first.

Indiana  |  July, 31, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Have done research that agrees with these conclusions. Note that the light wieght pigs in many cases are light birth wieght pigs which do not have as mature of digestive tract. The pigs should be targeted to be close to the same weight at phase 2 - and lighter wieght pigs be fed the phase one diet longer. We have known for some time that not sorting results in the light weight pigs changed to the phase 2 (and all susquent phases to lesser extent) too soon. This increases the diffwerences in final wieght relative to weaning weight and makes the relationship more curvilinear- the light weight pigs take longer and longer to reach target market wieghts. One has to also consider that light weight pigs at weaning are fed more phase 1 dietl and have increased feed costs to reach the same BW - making light weight pigs less valuable. If Phase one diets beocme more expensive relative to lactation diets - slightly increased lactaction lengths are economically encouraged.

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