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Points to Ponder When Raising Heavier Weight Pigs

24 October 2012

Space allocation, size of feeder, manure pits and ventilation may need to be re-considered as pig market weights increase, says Doug Richards, Swine Grower-Finisher Specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in the latest 'Pork News & Views' newsletter from OMAFRA.

As shown in the graph below, the hot carcass weight (HCW) of market pigs in Ontario has been increasing over time. Processors have gone from wanting 77kg HCW in 1977 to almost 100kg HCW today. With this increase in weight, producers will need to change the management in the grow–finish barns to help optimise their returns for the larger pigs.

Producers may find that space allocation, size of feeder, manure pits and ventilation may need to be modified to handle the increase in the pig's bodyweight and size.

Listed below are areas that should be looked at in the grow-finish barn.

Space allocation per animal

The larger animals will require more space. The maximum loading in the pen is the day before the first sort. Keeping weights current by shipping at the required weight may reduce the pen loading.

Research has shown that overcrowding of pigs can result in a 10 per cent decline in growth rate.

Space allocation at the feeder

The feeder partitions of 12 inches may not be wide enough to accommodate the 14-inch shoulder width of the larger animal. Recently, the author saw some heavy pigs (290 lbs plus) go on to their knees in order to access the feeder.

A four-hole feeder may only accommodate three large pigs at one time. If feeder access is reduced it may result in reduced gain.

Manure pit capacity

Even though the number of pigs has not increased, the manure volume output from the larger animals may reduce the storage days of the pit.

Ventilation rates, summer and winter

Larger animals will need increased ventilation rates to maintain air temperature, quality and humidity levels. Recalculate the ventilation needs for the heaver pigs and adjust if necessary.

Sorting, handling and shipping

Larger animals may not move, sort or load as easily. The number of animals moved at one time should be in the three to five range. Watch out for heat stress when moving the larger animals. They may need more time to recover from the stress of sorting or moving.

By identifying the different areas that may need management changes in the grow-finish barn when raising heavier pigs, producers can make the changes to help improve the bottom line.

October 2012

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