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A Sow Has 22 Piglets, No Problem

- Oct 22, 2018 -

A sow has 22 piglets, no problem.

Modern genetics has created over-producing sows that often raise piglets instead of nipples. RESULTS: Piglet mortality is relatively high and often how to keep each piglet living until weaning. A simple solution might help overcome this

Imagine a lactating sow with 22 piglets. Crazy, you said? Or you will answer - will cause many piglets to be crushed.

Schils, a team of young animal feed specialists based in Sittard, in the south of the Netherlands, said there is absolutely no possibility of this type of thing. At this EuroTier, the company is introducing a way to achieve this goal in the pig industry, which is known for its pig-feeding dairy products. With many innovations - simplicity and logic can be achieved a lot.


How does ALFF work in practice? It is placed in the middle between the two birthing bars. Photo: Sears

Raising sow

Today, high-yield and productive sows are a common phenomenon. Sows from Denmark usually produce large nests. Let's narrow it down now: What happens if the number of piglets exceeds the number of nipples available? Farms can choose to raise sows, ie sows from different week groups, instead of returning to the next breeding cycle and giving milk for a long time. This approach has many advantages because it allows the piglets to grow up - and the EU official does not allow very young piglets to be raised without sows.

However, this approach also has various shortcomings. It costs money to keep the sow away from the next production cycle because all the time she spends breastfeeding her new piglet is “lost” for breeding purposes. Therefore, parenting practices often have an impact on the overall efficiency of the farm. In addition, foster sows that give birth a month or more will produce milk different from the sows a few days after delivery. This may mean that piglets may not be able to take the exact type of nutrition they need. Third, cross-feeding with sows from different weekly groups is a very logistical operation, which in turn may result in animal stress or a higher risk of infection.

Solve the problem of lactation

The new solution to overcome the problem of lactation is called “ALFF”, an easy-to-carry device that allows farmers to temporarily increase the milking capacity of the delivery pen. Jo Heusschen, the company's innovation manager, likes to compare it with the idea of “IKEA”. He said, "This is a very simple concept that is easy to disassemble and easy to move."

The technology was developed by Paul Steeghs, who himself has only recently become a pig breeder. The essence of this idea is to keep all the piglets' sows, but only need to provide a little extra milk in the cup, which is provided by the automatic dispenser - the automatic liquid flexible feeder (its acronym ALFF). When connected to a power network, the machine can supply a certain amount of milk to the cup every hour, at the same frequency as the sow. This keeps the piglets interested and prevents the cup from getting dirty. A flexible feeder can serve two sows at the same time.

Mr. Heusschen added that smart pig farmers will immediately see the added value of this concept. After all, the system also allows for the creation of foster sows within the same week group. In this case, one sow can be separated from the other two sows by a flexible feeder, and one sow can be vacated to help other sows. In this case, no sow was taken out of her production cycle because she was doing what she was supposed to do, as shown in Figure 1.

In addition to supporting functions, the Schils team also identified a second strategy for liquid flexible feeders - mainly for areas outside the EU: no parenting. Within the EU, mothers are discouraged for welfare reasons, but outside Europe, this may be a worthwhile strategy for pig farms.

Figure 1 - Schematic of how an automatic liquid flexible feeder turns three pockets into two. The blue piglets together form a sow that is "released" for sow seeding purposes in the same week.


Practical application

Theory so far - How does this concept work in practice? In the spring of 2018, Schils nutritionist Nicole Lousberg experimented at the Swine Innovation Center (VIC) at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. In the trial, 40 sows and sows were added to the nest - half of which formed a control group. From the second day after delivery, the piglets received two regular pre-germinations per day. According to the company's breeding portfolio, the other half received support from flexible feeders, 24 times each time, in limited quantities (see box). In order to be able to measure the results equally, the litter size was standardized on 15 piglets. Both groups were weaned at 28 days.

The trial showed that piglets in the support group were heavier at the time of weaning than the piglets in the control group. At 14 days of age, piglets in the support group weighed 530 g more than the control group - weight gain at the end of the weaning period. Compared with the control group, the weaning weight was less than 6 kg, the weaning weight of the weaned piglets increased by 21%, and the weaned piglets decreased by 3.6%.

In addition, the research team found that the intake of milk replacer did not reduce the intake of the weaning diet, but increased the overall feed intake.

The trial aims to reduce the feeding of mothers

The second trial focused on reducing maternal rearing, which was completed in June 2018 at an independent pilot farm in Oirschot, the Netherlands. After all, with the support of liquid flexible feeders, sows can raise more piglets without having to be promoted to “no mother”. Sows were observed to handle 21 and 19 piglets. As long as the liquid flexible feeder was used within 19 days, the average growth of 206 piglets was 199 g/day.

Interestingly, from day 2 to weaning, the overall mortality rate was 3.89%. On average, the figure for the Netherlands is 13.4%.

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