Docile sows push up Spanish performance

SPAIN - Docility of stock has been a major factor in the success of a new Spanish pig unit which is among the first in that country to install a group housing system in advance of EU legislation that will prohibit the use of sow stalls in 2013.
calendar icon 21 November 2006
clock icon 3 minute read
ACMC Breeders

Welfare is a new issue in Spain. Group housing and a change of genetics has boosted productivity on the SAT 322 company unit belonging to Marcial Chico in northern Spain.

Marcial Chico runs an integrated 7,300-sow operation producing 150,000 finishing pigs a year in the Aranda de Duero region of northern Spain. To improve productivity, his company, SAT 322, changed breeding stock supplier to British breeders, ACMC and now runs its own nucleus unit using Meidam sows. About 18 months ago he set up a brand new 640-sow commercial unit near Segovia, using gilts bred through this system.

Since any new buildings will not now be approved by the authorities if they incorporate a stall system, Marcial Chico decided to use group housing with bedding for the sows once they were confirmed as being in pig, despite the high cost of local barley straw. Having been measured for backfat, the sows are batched in according to condition in groups of 9-10 until being transferred to the farrowing house about seven days before they are due to give birth.

The manager, Alfredo Galindo, has found the sows "unbelievably" easy to manage under this system due to what he terms as their "social character". He believes their maternal temperament in the farrowing house and their Chinese genes also contribute to the good results being achieved by the unit. Their 'Pigmanager' recording system shows total number born per litter is currently averaging 13.73 with 12.83 born alive and 11.5 weaned, giving an annual sow rearing output of 26.7.

The pigs, which are finished on a separate farm, are taken to 110 kg before slaughter, which takes 16-18 weeks from 17 kg. Welfare is a new issue in Spain but the Spanish industry - which with over 2.3 million sows is one of the largest in the EU - is now coming under increasing pressure from the urban population. The intensive units, largely concentrated in the tourist areas of Catalonia and Murcia, are therefore moving to the interior.

Overall, since switching genetics, the SAT 322 organisation has noted that numbers born alive have improved by two pigs per litter and the pigs have been "easier" to get to the heavy finishing weight, despite the fact that the males are castrated. In addition an improvement in feed conversion ratio of 0.2 has been recorded since the company started using ACMC's Vantage FC boars.

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