Improving Days to Market

CANADA - On 5 and 6 February, Manitoba held its annual Swine Seminar. Dr Thomas Stein presented data on finishing growth with MetaFarms and data from 14 million pigs, write Lorne and Vicki Tannas of Genesus.
calendar icon 24 February 2014
clock icon 5 minute read

Lorne and Vick Tannas are swine specialists and nucleus support for Genesus farms in China.

The top 10 per cent of the finishers were getting about 15 per cent better ADG and FC than the average and 2.5 times less death loss. How can this happen? Where are your pigs on ADG and FC and what can you do to change?

Top 10 per centAvg
2.02 ADG 1.86 ADG
2.56 FC 2.92 FC

A very large part of this variation comes from Stockmanship. The cost of getting that gain comes from whether you have good genetics that will eat and grow. In a recent article in Pig International Jan/Feb 2014, Kayleigh Almond PhD Primary Diets talks about the three ways to implement piglet creep feed and the overall effect on finishing performance.

  1. Offer Creep early; get feed to them starting at seven days of age. This improves the number of piglets eating feed from 70 per cent to 80per cent by weaning. An improvement of 10 per cent. Those of you that don’t creep, for many of your own reasons, watch your piglets and you will see them crawling up into the sow feeder and are eating moms feed. Lactation feed is NOT a good gut development ration for piglets.

  2. Small amounts often; the amount of total creep we are trying to get the piglet to eat from day 7 to weaning is 200 grams. This is not a lot, even though this ration maybe very expensive, you will see a six-fold return on the cost. Place small amounts three or four times a day in an area that they will frequent. Make sure its disappearance is because of consumption rather than spillage. We are talking about a handful of creep on the mat 3-4 times a day. Feeders are not toilets for piglets. Move, change or get rid of the feeder if it becomes one, then just use the mat.

  3. Highly Palatable Creep; this is not a place for least cost formulation. I used to joke about seeing Chicken feathers on Feed mills ingredient lists. Feed ingredients that are known to be palatable, Potato starches and oat grouts not Chicken feathers. Also feed vitamins and minerals in a form that can be absorbed by the piglet. A lot of people don’t creep because they say the piglets scour. Stop feeding Chicken feathers.

Now we have weaned the piglet. Focus on the first week. For every 100 grams of growth you get in the first three days is three days less to market. I used to run two 10,000 head nurseries. We targeted 200 grams of growth in the first three days. Most farms lose 200 grams of growth in the same three days. That means I am 12 days less to market through finishing than they are by losing weight during this period. I know farms that restrict feed during the first 3 days because they are in fear of scouring. Stop feeding Chicken feathers. Mark a group of 20 to 30 pigs with a tag marker weigh them at weaning and then again on the morning of the 4th day. What is your gain/loss? The best I have seen is 300 grams. Most farms lose weight, that’s why they are average. I couldn’t get positive growth after weaning until I did four key things. The focus is on the first week only.

  1. Enhance the environment. Allow for only 1C of temperature variation through 24 hour day. No drafting. Putting down mats to prevent pit drafting and/or removable covers over sleeping area. Remember you are putting a naked baby on the floor.

  2. Extra feed available. Piglets are used to eating as a group on the sow now we want them to eat at a feeder as individuals. Use the mat and put a scoop of feed down 3-4 times (2gks scoop) a day for the first week.

  3. Extra water availability. We installed turkey drinkers that hang from the ceiling. Ten or so piglets can drink at a time. After a week we lifted them out of reach of the pigs.

  4. Group all the piglets that haven’t found feed or adjusted to feed. This will be 5 per cent of your piglets. They will need enhanced care. Maybe make a gruel for them 3-4 times a day. Add a heat lamp to the pen. Giving this 5 per cent a shot of long acting antibiotics (e.g. Excede) has shown to get these pigs back on track and have similar growth as siblings.

Just by improving your first three day after weaning you can improve by 12 days to market by getting positive growth instead of negative growth. Follow your marked piglets by weighing them at each feed change and graph it. Your growth rate graph should look upward sloping, smooth and linear. If your growth is not linear and smooth you are not changing feed at the right time or your formulation isn’t meeting growth requirements.

Average Daily Gain and Feed Conversion have as much to do with Stockmanship as any other factor. Ask yourself do I want to be top 10 per cent or average?

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