In my farm visits with customers, I have noticed some errors in young pig management that are consistent across many farms and buildings. Here is a list of the more common mistakes, in no particular order of importance.
1) Comfort board area for new pigs in wean-to-finish barns.
Newly weaned pigs need a minimum of .5 square feet per pig for sleeping area. A 4 x 8 comfort board will handle up to 64 pigs per pen. As numbers per pen increase more comfort board area needs to be added. Additionally the brooder heaters need to be adjusted to provide the desired temperature across the surface area of the mat or board.
2) Minimum ventilation setup in wean to finish barns.
A 1200 head wean to finish barn needs 2 cfm per pig or 2400 cfm for minimum ventilation for weaned pigs. Many barns are set up by the contractor or the electrician to have 2- 24 inch pit fans running at 40-50% for minimum ventilation. Most 24 inch fans provide 7000 cfm. With 2 fans at 40%, we have 5600 cfm or about 5 cfm per pig. That is an excellent set up if we have 50 pound feeder pigs but results in excessive propane use for weaned pigs. Manually turn off one of the 24 inch fans and you will achieve your minimum requirements. Turn the second 24 back on when the pigs approach 40-50 pounds. If you have actuated inlets, you may need to reset them as the controller will act as both fans are running and inlet openings will not be correct.
3) Good controller knowledge.
The controllers are the computers that run the ventilation systems of your barn. Become familiar with their operations and their settings; they can be your best friend or, if managed improperly, can be your worst nightmare.
4) Moving pigs too quickly onto a simple corn-soy diet.
In an effort to hold down costs, I see too many producers moving pigs too quickly from a milk based diet to corn-soy. The young pig has been exposed only to a milk diet while on the sow and his digestive enzymes are set to handle those proteins and carbohydrates found in milk. Moving pigs too quickly away will result in reduced growth rates and poorer conversions. These animals need to undergo a transition that allows them to develop their enzymes for digestion of cereal grains and soybean meal. In my experience, pigs must weigh a minimum of 25-30 pounds for this transition period to be complete. If you see healthy pigs with lower than target ADG and higher feed efficiency, evaluate your transition strategy.
5) Too coarse a grind on the feed.
We know that a uniform grind is important but grinding as finely as we can will improve feed efficiency and performance. I understand that feeders and bulk bin bridging can be a problem but we need to push ourselves to manage that process. With high grain costs, a reduction of 100 microns will reduce feed efficiency by $1 per pig. If a good feed mill feeds 200,000 pigs per year, well, the math is simple. I know of feed mills which have gotten their roller mill meal diets to below 580 microns with good uniformity.
6) Feed outage.
Almost every time I visit barns, there is a pen or, sometimes, a barn out of feed. We all know the damage that can be caused by running pigs out of feed. Determine the cause of the feed outage and work on a plan to fix it.
For further information, please see your local feed sales representative at a Land O’Lakes Feed Co-op or Purina Mills Dealer. Visit us online at www.LOLFeed.com | www.PurinaMills.com | www.PurinaPigStarters.com | www.gelresearch.com.
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