Rules for a successful nursery program are interrelated, says Steve Dritz, swine specialist, Kansas State University. These include the importance of weaning weight and age for a successful start in the nursery, as well as feeding and environmental management that promote top performance. You also need to monitor diet formulation and ingredient selection to maximize performance and minimize cost and disease challenges.

Other rules include:

1. Communicate the message. Do your employees understand the program? Is management communicating the proper message or are they communicating a message at all?

2. Start out with healthy pigs. It is imperative to deal with health challenges immediately with proper diagnostics and an appropriate treatment plan.

3. Perform proper room cleaning, disinfecting and drying within the facility. Pig performance increases in clean environments – "cleanliness is probably responsible for most of the growth performance benefits from all-in/all-out production," says Dritz

4. Set the facility up properly before the pigs arrive. In addition to sanitation, set ventilation controls to dry and warm the room, make sure all waterers are functioning and at the proper height; close the feed gate in all feeders before the first food is placed in them.

5. Implement cost-effective diet formulation and high ingredient quality. Feed intake is critical for the pig to maintain proper body temperature adjustments. Ingredient quality also is critical.

6. Maximize pig weaning weight and age. Restricting a sow's feed, protein or energy intake during lactation will reduce milk production, decrease the litter's weaning weight and impair subsequent reproductive performance.

7. Assist pigs and teach feeding behavior. By 36 hours after placement, most pigs will have found water and started to exhibit feeding behavior. This is a critical time to identify pigs that lack such behavior or are becoming dehydrated. This may involve hand feeding pellets or using a gruel administered with a syringe.

8. Minimize sorting and mixing of pigs. It appears that in multiple-site production systems with a narrow weaning age spread per group, that minimal sorting and mixing result in better growth.

9. Adjust the feeders frequently. "If your fingers don't ache from cleaning the feed gates, you are not ajusting them properly," says Dritz. "We have observed decreased growth rate as a result of improper feeder adjustment."

10. Compile and analyze closeouts. Compiling accurate records is a constant struggle, but it's essential to accurately monitor growth. Dritz notes, a key factor when analyzing closeouts is to account for explainable sources of variation from group to group and adjust values for those causes.