By PIC Global Technical Services – Reproduction
Establishing a new herd is a rewarding process, and is the culmination of years of planning and dedicated project management. Even though the startup of a new farm is not a regular occurrence for most pig farmers, the important principles, which will lead to the successful startup of a new herd, can also be applied to daily management guidelines in the established herd.
In some instances, the results achieved during the first few months of operation do not match the expectations and most project managers can write a book on lessons learned during the first two years of the new herd. The rate of success or failure depends on how prepared the farm is in terms of production flow, facilities and labor qualifications.
In order to reach success during the first two years of production, the most common challenges needs to be controlled. The key points which will determine success are:
- Pig flow and replacement rate
- Feeding management
- Preventing disease.
In order to reach ultimate success, the long-term goals for the farms needs to be set and worked towards from the beginning. Based on a target of 35 PSY at the second year, an example of key performance indicators as seen in Table 1 .
Pig flow and replacement rate
In order to get control over the pig flow and replacement rate in the first two years, it is crucial to receive gilts correctly. Start them right by:
Checking equipment before entry
• Check all equipment a week before the first gilts arrive. Inspect the loading area and test generators, water supply and individual water sources, feed system and individual feeders, cooling/heating and ventilation systems and the water medication system.
Creating a proper environment
• Allow 1,1 m2 per gilt.
• Dry feeder space: eight gilts per feeder space, or 5 cm feeder length per gilt.
• Wet dry feeder space: ten gilts per feeder space, or 3 cm feeder length per gilt.
• Maximum 10 gilts per water source.
• Provide fresh, cool water 24/7.
• Teach them to use the water nipples and feeders and maximise feed intake 3 days after arrival.
• Establish and follow a proper care plan
Provide electrolytes at arrival and for one day thereafter. Inspect all gilts individually and identify and treat them accordingly. Move severe cases to a sick pen area and treat and monitor.
In order to build proper piglet throughput, the pig flow needs to be established from day one to create a solid foundation for future production. Breeding group variation is often one of the most inconsistent indicators on a new farm. Being over or under weekly breeding target creates undesired consequences on;
• Breeding flow consistency;
• Weaning age variation; and
• Weaning flow consistency.
• The goal is to keep the breeding target integrity within a five percent of maximum variation. The main reasons for failure is inconsistent HNS (Heat No Service) program and Conception Rate problems, especially in the first ten weeks. A poorly planned stocking plan or breeding plan and poor gilt utilsation exacerbates the effect.
The number of HNS’ed eligible gilts defines eventual number of weekly breedings and breeding program variation (Table 2).
It is important to prevent being under breeding target in the last month of matings (week 17 to 20). This often occurs due to lower gilts utilisation than earlier in the stocking cycle, lack of breeding program in the earlier weeks, and lack of a replacement programme. Gilt inventory needs to be checked well in advance to project the breeding schedule early enough. Additional gilts needs to be brought in to avoid breeding under target in this stage.
Controlling breeding group variation on ESF Farms holds additional challenges. Gilts need to be trained between 20 and 24 weeks old. Consider starting the training procedures on Monday to avoid the risk of weekend interruptions during the first crucial days of training. At the first week of breedings, plan to have five or six times more gilts available in the pipeline than what is required to achieve breeding target. This will allow a gilt flow of at least two weeks on full feed after ESF training to show heat, plus three weeks HNS until service.
Lameness and retention rate
Lameness is the major unintentional reason that limit the retention rate during the first 20 weeks. Frequent lesions include cracks in the horn walls of the hoof, claws and heel. The new farm holds increased risks for lameness, since new flooring are often more abrasive and can have sharper edges. Also, the transport and off-loading of gilts in the first cycle poses additional risk for injury and so does mixing and fighting after arrival. Lameness in the new herd can be controlled by treating all cases of lameness from the day of arrival. Provide rubber mats in pens on new floors and in severe cases, move gilts to a hospital pen. Use footbaths with five percent Copper Sulphate at entry and at each daily or weekly movement. Treating the rough and sharp edges of slats and solid floors with acids or sanding them down can also help in reducing foot lesions.
Replacement rate and culling
Strategic replacement rate and culling protocol should be used as a production tool to optimise Parity 0 to Parity 2 retention rate and to control parity structure by placing higher voluntary culling pressure on Parity 3’s and older (Table 3).
Reaching weekly breeding target is the most important parameter for any herd, not only for the new farm. Plan weekly breeding targets ahead by taking the number of HNS gilts and projected number of weaned sows into consideration, then apply culling protocol (Table 4).
Data suggests that less than 20 piglets total born during two consecutive parities is an indicator of limited litter size performance in subsequent parities. Set a voluntary culling point at P2 and P4.
Adequate boar power is essential in reaching successful gilt development targets, HNS management and achieving target conception rates. The quality of boar exposure is often challenged by boars being too young and inexperienced, and by not having enough boars during the start-up phase. Use one boar per 90 gilts and do not use boars for more than 60 minutes at a time. Supervise daily interaction between gilts and the teaser boars. Avoid fear and distraction, especially during the early stages of training and perform semen collections weekly to keep them motivated. Teaser boar pen-mates can be worked together successfully as a team. Plan for two entries of replacement teaser boars a year during the startup phase, and plan to breed replacement boars for future use from the first week of matings.
Follow the 3-Phase PIC feeding guide:
- Phase 1: Maximise full feed in gilts from birth to breeding.
- Phase 2: Restricted feed in gestation. Bump feed only gilts in late gestation, not sows, and not heavy gilts.
- Phase 3: Maximise full feed from farrow to re-breeding (Table 5).
Gilts need to be trained to use the feeders in the farrowing house. Stand them up twice per day, check the water nipples and feeder system and encourage them to eat. Remove wet or spoiled feed and readjust feeders in necessary. Never restrict feed in lactation.
The young herd has poorer immunity than an established herd. Gilts with poor milk production increases competition and intra-litter fighting, which can lead to a number of health problems in the piglets. Focus on the basics during the first farrowing cycle to increase piglet health:
- Colustrum intake.
- Keep litter integrity >80%.
- Do not process pigs until day 3.
- Consider grinding teeth instead of clipping.
The new farm can thrive in the first two years of production. It is possible to successfully navigate the most common obstacles with proper planning during the stocking phase. Establishing a solid foundation in culling policy, replacement rate, breeding principles, feeding management and following an excellent health plan will set the new farm up for not only a smooth startup, but for long-term success.