Streaming Pigs - Garth Veterinary Group.

By John Carr, Garth Veterinary Group. This article looks at one of the problems encountered in all-in/all-out programmes. What to do with the pigs which fail to keep up with the main group? Many of these pigs are recognisable at weaning as they are generally the smallest. While individual pigs can catch up, as a group smaller pigs or pigs which fall back, never grow as quickly as the main group.
calendar icon 12 July 2000
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  1. Compromised pigs have extremely variable finishing weights between75-95 kg. This results in the finishing house being emptied over a long period. Ideally each finishing room should be emptied in two weeks, but the compromised pigs can extend this to 3 to 4 weeks instead, which is expensive in finishing floor area utilisation.

  2. At weaning compromised pigs require extreme care and help which can be difficult to provide, particularly if big pig pens are used.

  3. Because compromised pigs are under more stress they are more likely to succumb to disease and while they may not die (at least initially), they are likely to infect their pen mates.
To provide for these compromised pigs a streaming concept has been devised. At the point of weaning select the bottom 10% of the pigs and move them to different accommodation. The 90% top pigs are then moved into the traditional hot nursery. The smaller pigs ideally should go into a straw pen with some additional heating. These 10% of animals can now receive extra help and attention including antibiotics where necessary. With the compromised pigs removed the main group tend to remain healthy, and on farms where streaming has been introduced, the need for infeed post weaning antibiotics has been reduced, or eliminated altogether.

Assuming there are 4 weeks of hot nursery to take the pigs from weaning at 7 kg to 18 kg - the compromised pigs will require 5 weeks to achieve 18 kg.

The streaming concept is divided into three areas.

  1. Weaning At the point of weaning select the bottom 10% of the pigs and move them to separate accommodation. It is essential that these animals are not housed with the bulk of the pigs. The ideal is to keep them away from the main group, which are moved into the traditional hot nursery (first stage flat deck). The compromised pigs can now receive additional help and care including, where necessary, antibiotics and water medication. They can also be porridge fed 8 x daily, perhaps for 6-8 days. Note it is important to mimic 'mum' immediately after weaning to stimulate and teach these pigs to eat and drink. Prior to weaning they are eating and drinking 10-20 times a day, post weaning humans only feed them once or twice a day, modern post-weaning management is hardly copying nature. Studies on several farms have identified the healthy group are unlikely to require medication and only need to receive the most expensive creeps for 3 days.

  2. One week post weaning Identify the weakest 5% of the healthy group. If necessary these can be moved to join their compromised peers from a week earlier. This allows any fading pigs to be catered for and receive appropriate treatment. If there are no animals fading then there is no need to disturb the group. The streaming system allows for better utilisation of stockpeople and resources. The main group receives the normal 3 days intensive care post weaning, the compromised pigs can receive 7 days intensive care which is an obvious reason for their improved survival.

  3. The healthy 85-90% pigs at 18 kg
On most farms it takes 3-4 weeks for pigs to grow to 18-20 kg at which point they are moved into the second stage nursery.

  1. The 10% - 15%compromised pigs at 18 kg
These remain in their special accommodation until they are about 18-20 kg which on most farms takes 4 ½-5 weeks. At 18 kg the compromised group have two options.

  1. They mix into a healthy group of 18-20 kg pigs which are naturally one week younger. This obviously breaks the all-in/all-out rules, but mixing two groups of 18 kg animals which are more mature, in particular with regard to their immune system, is safer than mixing animals at any time after day 10 when maternal antibodies start to wane.

  2. They remain separated from the main group and are farmed separately, either to sale weight or bacon weight. While this is the best option and maintains all-in/all-out, this option is very difficult or impractical in small farms working with small numbers of compromised pigs. However, on large units especially outdoor this is a practical option. Note these pigs all come from the same farm and have the same 'health' status.
When the compromised group gets to 18 kg it is imperative the pigs are graded. Those who are unlikely to economically succeed must be destroyed. While grading is generally difficult for any stockperson at weaning, it has been found that at 9 weeks of age pigs that are only 12 kg in weight are unlikely to make it. The removal of these sick pigs is a major reason for the success of streaming.

Advantages experienced so far :

  1. Quicker emptying of the finishing house - variation at finishing of only 85-95 kg instead of 75-95 kg. Better floor space utilisation.
  2. No problems at 18-20 kg with mixing pigs.
  3. Reduction of antibiotic usage - up to 70% on three farms, in particular injectable and in-feed medication.
  4. Decreased post weaning fading weaners.
  5. More prompt treatment of compromised weaners.
  6. Reduction in post weaning mortality although some of this has to be balanced with the destroying of sick pigs.
  7. Better use of stockperson time and resources.
Adaptations of the basic form

As with any idea, once tried successful adaptations are made. The one which has worked well is to identify the 10% compromised at week 3 of lactation i.e. when they are 16-21 days old and on weaning day move them onto a suitable newly weaned sow i.e. good mother, with long narrow teats, possibly a gilt (to enhance her reproduction) therefore leaving 9 piglets on the original sow.

The moved 10% are placed on their new mother(s) and left for at least 2 weeks. Therefore, they are actually weaned at 5 weeks. They are then moved into the compromised weaner accommodation and mixed with the main group again at 18 kg. Note: to ensure service targets are met for the first 2 weeks, extra gilts are needed to accommodate the nurse sows.

After 2 weeks the nurse sows return to the breeding pool.


  • The streaming system is a means of better caring for the poor pigs at weaning time and allows for their successful integration back into the main group, albeit into a group a week younger.

  • The removal of the weakest pigs from a large group allows that group to progress with less problems and can have the effect of reducing medication requirements quite considerably.

  • The isolation of compromised pigs results in more efficient use of a stockpersons time and focuses attention on those pigs who need it most.
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