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ARE WE READY FOR REMOVING ANTIBIOTICS?


As we are now working at removing systematic use of antibiotics in pigs’ diets, biosecurity is becoming more important than ever. Biosecurity at the farm level is the set of practical measures taken both to prevent entrance of infection into a pig farm and to control the spread of infection within that farm. One of the most important biosecurity program for Swine farmers to implement is the All In / All Out strategy.


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Animals enter into a room simultaneously (gestation, maternity, weaning, nursery, grower, and finisher) to ensure that we can remove them from that room on the same day. This strategy ensures that we can empty pens and implement thorough cleaning and fallowing. When possible, the facility should be allowed to completely dry before the next group enters. Care must be taken to properly clean the feeders, walls, ceiling, water troughs, penning, and flooring. High pressure with hot water and detergent is recommended.

Such disinfection and fallowing programs are essential to maintain the good sanitary conditions of the farms with a positive program on the animals’ health and overall performance.

Once a group is established, younger pigs are never added to the group and, likewise, older pigs are never mixed with a younger group. Piglets can be fostered between sows of the same group but not to another group. That strategy prevents infection to circulate throughout the farm.


The grouping of the piglets starts with the grouping of the sows. According to the number of building available (mostly maternity rooms and post-weaning pens), we need to decide how many sows group we want to manage. We can decide to gather all the sows present in the farm (both gestating and lactating ones) into 5, 7 or 21 groups.

For the 5 groups strategy, we will need only need to have one maternity. Every 4 weeks, a new group of sows will enter into the maternity room. They will arrive few days only before farrowing, they will stay for 21 days. The sows will leave the maternity room only few days before the next group of sows arrive so that we can clean the room and avoid pathogens transmission to the next group. But this strategy obliges to wean piglets at 21 days.


For the 7 groups strategy, the interval between group is 3 weeks. In that case, we will need to have 2 maternity rooms. The sows will stay 6 weeks there. They will arrive 1 week before farrowing and be weaned at 28 days. This strategy will empty the rooms for a full week for optimal disinfection and fallowing. This strategy is the most popular strategy in Europe. For large farm, we can decide to split the sows into 21 groups. For this strategy, the interval is one week which requires the farmer to invest into 5 maternity rooms. Every week, a new group of sows enter in an empty maternity room and one group is taken out. The sows stay overall 5 weeks in their maternity room. They arrive few days before farrowing and are weaned at 28 days. This 21 batches strategy is not possible for small farms as it will make too small batches of animal and require too heavy investment in building.

For large farms at the opposite, it enables to specialise work force. Every week, one batch of piglet will be weaned, one group of sows will be inseminated, one group of sows will farrow. We can split responsibility between workers and get a team specialised only for weaning, one team for IA, etc… The table below summarizes the different strategy for sow batching

As we can see in the table above, the choice of grouping strategy is closely related to the strategy regarding weaning age. For weaning around 28 days, we will need to go for the 5 or 10 batches program. The average weaning age has actually been reduced over the past 15 years (cf graph below).

AVERAGE WEANING AGE IN FRENCH SWINE FARMS


On a pure economical point of view, the 21 days weaning age help to increase the number of litter per sow per year from 2.45 to 2.57 which can contribute to increase the number of piglets weaning per sow per year. But in the past few years, the new trend is actually back towards 28 days weaning. It has been demonstrated that the 21 days weaning is too stressful for the piglets and should be limited for well-fare reasons. Moreover, the priority is now to prepare better the piglets gut for the weaning process and the additional 7 days are needed to prepare better the transition. Finally, it is important to take into account the time needed by the sow for her uterine involution and the preparation of her next reproduction cycle. The table below underlined indeed that the extension of the lactation period ensures an increase of number of piglets born for the next cycle. That is particularly true for the highly prolific sows.


The main benefits of the batch management result from improved health, leading to faster growth, improved feed efficiency, lower mortality and reduced medication costs. The table below measures the impact of batch management on the farm performance showing the benefits of implementing such strategy.

Derek Armstrong, Meat & Livestock Commission, February 2003: 2 herds of 590 sows

In addition, as all the sows of a same group will farrow within 2-3 days, fostering of piglets will be facilitated. It should create more homogeneous batches of piglets and limit issues at post-weaning. This homogeneity will help the farmers as well to group the shipping of the fatteners to the slaughterhouse and reduce the truck expenses. But to implement such strategy, we need to consider several other parameters:

  • Building may need to be modified to accommodate the number of groups

  • Technical tasks will be concentrated on the same day. It will enable specialisation but requires technical staff to handle such peak of activity.

  • The grouping strategy may induce a relative reduction of space occupation. As an example, the 7 batch strategy will require 5 to 10% more farrowing crates to accept sows from the previous group that are coming back to heat and therefore need to change group.

  • Such planning requires management tool to collect data and organise tasks. Several Swine farm management software are available on the market. The 2 most popular software on the industry are Pig’Up (Europe) and PigChamp (USA).

Today, in Europe, all modern sow farms operate with some kind of batch management system supported by IT management software. Our Nutrispices experts are experienced in this field and can assist you in implementing batch strategy and/or Pig’Up management software. Do not hesitate to contact us if you are interesting in such project for you or your customers.


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