Ready… Set… GROW! Getting Weaned Pigs Off To a Good Start

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You’re starting a new group of pigs, and you want to have your best closeout possible. The most important component to achieving this, is getting your weaned pigs off to a good start. There are many keys that factor into this, starting long before the pigs arrive at your barn.

Your journey with your incoming pigs begins with communication to your sow unit, confirming delivery dates and times to ensure that the barn is cleaned, disinfected, and dried to allow for a clean/dry environment for incoming pigs, thus, reducing disease challenges that may arise.

Second, you will want to communicate with your veterinarian, ensuring that you have the proper health plan in place, and that you have all medications and vaccinations on site, when pigs arrive, so they can be administered in a timely manner or when warranted.

Finally, along with communication with your veterinarian, you will want to have communication with your nutritionist, to confirm that you have the proper feed budget/plan in place for your incoming pigs. Note that this plan may change, depending on the age/size of your wean pig, making it very important to have this discussion prior to pigs being placed.

Now that the plan for the pigs is in place, it is time to get everything at your site ready for the arrival of your wean pigs. A couple of days before delivery, you want to be sure to verify that the barn is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Inspecting barn equipment to ensure that everything is in good working order will help to minimize challenges as we start pigs on feed. Making a checklist, if you don’t have one, can help to make sure that we check everything over. Your equipment checklist should include the following items, to be sure they are in good working order: fans (both pit fans and wall fans), inlets (plugging any holes that would be considered an improper inlet), heaters, brooder heaters, heat lamps, feed motors/lines, gating, flooring, water sources, and proper set up of your controllers.

Once you are confident that all is repaired and barn is ready to receive pigs, the next step is to start warming your barn/room up 24 hours prior to delivery. Although winter time can make this challenging, it is an important component in achieving an optimum environment for your pigs to get a good start. Now that the barn is warmed up and you are ready for the pigs to arrive, it is time to put the first stage feed ration in the feeders, making sure that all feed, from previous group, is flushed from the feedlines. The first feed ration is typically the most expensive, but also the most important, therefore, we need to be sure to spread out ration evenly to all feeders so each pig gets the proper amount of the budget. Once feed is in place, verify that water is on, proper flow rates are present, and water sources are accessible to all pigs.

Finally, we are ready to receive pigs, get them unloaded, and into their new home. We’re done now, right?!?…..Not quite. Best practices will have us pull the bottom 5-10% and place them into a pen in the middle of the barn, giving them extra TLC, less pen competition, and possibly giving them a nutrition ration that would target a better start on these smaller pigs. Once these smalls are pulled, it is time to determine how many pens you will fill, and how many you will leave empty to allow for hospital and recovery pens. Most people allow for 5% of their space to be used for these pigs, leaving the remaining space (general population) to be used to evenly distribute the rest of the pigs in the group. Now that the pigs are in place, we are good to go…Not exactly. The next ten days of the pig’s life is very crucial, as they are at the most vulnerable stage of their life. We need to be sure that the environment is set properly, feed presentation is perfect, water availability is set, and our daily observation and care is giving them their best chance at a great start. Below, let’s break this down a little further, to help you get your best start.

Barn environment is key to getting pigs off to a good start, with minimal challenges. When setting up the environment of your barn, be sure you have the proper CFM’s (Cubic Feet Per Minute) for minimum ventilation, taking into consideration the time of year you are starting your pigs. Once your controller is set, verify that what you set, is what is happening in your barn. Check that fans are running properly and that your inlets are giving you the proper air speed. Observe that your pigs are comfortable, looking for any drafts that could cause piling or temperatures that are too cold. Also, be careful to not run the barn too warm, with pigs that are all spread out and not wanting to get up and eat. Everything is set correctly, and we’re almost there… Now, observe your temps and settings every day, then lower your set temperature and increase your minimum ventilation, according to the pigs’ needs.

Water is one of the most important resources that a pig needs. As you are doing your daily observations, you will want to check your water availability, ensuring you have proper pressure, volume, and adequate space, for the size of pig in the barn. Continue to monitor daily that all are working and clean, adjusting and repairing as needed.
Feed availability to pigs ranks right up there, with water and air. Feed presentation can be challenging for newly weaned pigs, as they are going from an all liquid diet (momma’s milk) to a dry diet. We need to make sure that all feeders are set properly, and fresh feed is presented to the pigs at all times. Again, this can be challenging, since most first diets contain a lot of milk products that can spoil quickly with water and time. Timely cleaning out any wet/spoiled feed will help to keep pigs coming back to the feeder. Another key component to feed presentation is mat feeding, which is best accomplished by presenting small amounts of feed five to six times per day on a mat or some type of creep feeder, to encourage feed consumption.

See every pig every day…..Finally let’s take care of the pigs. Daily observation of your pigs is important in identifying if there are health challenges, such as: scouring, coughing, or unusual behavior in your pigs. Treat challenged/sick animals with appropriate antibiotics, as needed. Another key in your daily observations, is to identify any pigs that have not figured out how to consume a dry feed. These pigs should be pulled into the hospital pen, where they can receive a more intensive care of gruel feed, multiple times per day, transitioning from very liquid to a dry feed over a few days’ time. You may also need to pull sick pigs that do not respond to treatment in a timely manner, to the hospital pen for more intensive care. Once these pigs have recovered, it is important to move them to the recovery pen, to give any new pull pigs a better chance to recover in the hospital pen.

Hope this was helpful, in helping you start your next group of pigs. If you have any questions, reach out to any of the Pipestone System Wean to Market field team members. They would be happy to assist you, and get your pigs started on the right track.

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