Getting young pigs off to a successful start and gaining economically takes a combination of several factors. “Coaching, close observation and a hands-on approach all contribute to being a good nursery manager,” says Ron Pennington, accounts manager, Land O’Lakes Purina Feed. Pennington, with over 30 years in the swine industry, is based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Following are Pennington’s priorities for successfully getting young pigs off to a healthy start.
Environment for the weaned pig is crucial. The nursery must be draft-free. A warm nursery with drafts is harder on the small pig than a nursery a few degrees too cool that is draft-free.
Too many producers don't spend the time or the money to get the nursery flooring warmed before filling it with young 18 to 21-day-old weaned pigs. The farrowing house flooring and environment is warm and draft-free-- the nursery flooring should also be draft-free when young pigs are moved in.
Feeding young pigs the proper nutrition based on age of the pig versus size is often overlooked. Just because a pig is a little bigger doesn’t mean his digestive system will handle a less-nutrient-dense product. Too many times producers see "bigger" pigs getting off to a slower start in the nursery because they have "underfed" their digestive systems. Keep in mind, that a weaned pig's stomach is no bigger than your thumb. It can only hold so many nutrients.
Likewise, smaller pigs need more highly fortified starter feed longer, to have a chance to catch up.
Don’t make it difficult for a young pig to access water. Several factors play a key role in keeping the pig hydrated. Pay close attention to number of available nipples per pig, proper nipple placement as well as water pressure.
Land O’Lakes Purina Feed Gel products greatly help get liquids into the young pig and prevent dehydration as well as increase feed intake. (See more information at www.GelResearch.com.
People who only walk alleyways to "check" pigs are not seeing each animal and risk missing pigs that need immediate attention. Walk the pens several times a day for the first week, then at least twice a day after that. Get all of the pigs up and watch them.
The "off" pigs are usually lying down at the back of the pen to get away from the rest. If you don't treat the "off" pig within a few hours, it may be too late to save him. Use a sick pen in every room. The "off" pig needs to get away from the competition to have a better chance to recover.
Nursery Feeding Programs
When feeding young pigs, you always want to differentiate yourself from the competition. The Land O’Lakes Purina Feed Gel products provide this difference. The products are used to get the nursery pig eating as soon as possible. They are also used in the sick pen to get the recovering pig back on feed faster.
A typical standard feeding program recommends feeding pellets until the pig weighs a solid 15 pounds. Preemie is fed until 10 pounds and followed by Infant up to 15 pounds bodyweight.
Most producers then go to a standard three step grind and mix program utilizing Pig Booster 350, a starter pak product.
However, producers who feed pelleted Junior Pig Starter from 15 to 25 pounds bodyweight and then go to grind and mix with Pig Booster 350 see a tremendous increase in pig size. (Find out more about these products on www.purinapigstarters.com.)
Minimizing weight variation in the nursery
First of all, the producer must size his nursery pigs. An 8-pound pig needs to be fed differently than a 12-pound pig.
When fed the standard nursery program and then a grind and mix program at 15 pounds bodyweight, a small pig at weaning will continue to be a small pig in the finisher. Unfortunately, he does not have the ability to catch up to the bigger pigs because he is constantly being underfed.
How many producers change feeding steps when the youngest pig is at the weight to change feeds? A change in feed normally occurs with the overall average weight of the group.
If nursery managers take the smallest 10 to 15 percent of the weaned pigs, normally using only one feeder close to the nursery door, and feed them only pelleted feed in the nursery, most small pigs will come closer to catching up with the larger pigs. But most importantly, they will be full value pigs at market time.
Unfortunately, too many producers over-emphasize the cost of feeding pellets in the nursery. The difference between a full value pig versus.a light value pig at marketing time is significantly more than the extra pelleted nursery feed expense.
We have strongly promoted feeding younger pigs a pelleted feed longer in the nursery. This is a value-added program. Producers can see the difference in how these smaller pigs perform and are full-valued pigs at market time. When producers feed our Junior Pig Starter longer in the nursery it pays off in optimized pig performance.
Taking the Time to Care
“Overall, we spend a lot of time in the nursery,” adds Pennington. We are walking the pens, checking nipple heights, temperatures and looking for drafts. We get every pig up
and watch them move around. The pig’s actions will tell the producer how it’s getting along.
Taking the time to stand in the alleyway with our customer to watch, smell and listen is a big part of supporting our nursery customers’ success. Most of our customers do more than raise hogs to make a living. They have lots of other things on their minds. Our coaching, reminding, and hands-on approach all help support our customers to be exceptional nursery managers.