Batch farrowing offers smaller sow farms improved disease control

Independent sow farms grouped together and using batch farrowing may be able to capture the same health advantages as a 5,000-sow farm with all-in, all-out production, suggested David Baumert, DVM, Zoetis.
calendar icon 9 April 2018
clock icon 3 minute read

Batch farrowing involves breeding a large group of sows in a short period of time versus breeding a small group of sows every week.

“For example, we will take a month’s worth of traditional breeding and do all those sows within the first week of the month,” Baumert said. “Subsequently, we’re going to farrow and wean that same large group of sows in a short time frame.”

Batch farrowing works well when several smaller sow farms cooperate and develop a schedule for breeding, farrowing and weaning on different weeks. For example, one farm breeds on week 1, another on week 2, another on week 3, and week 4. Subsequently, farrowing and weaning will follow on monthly schedules.

Less stress, less disease

“The advantages of disease management from batch farrowing will show up both in the farrowing room and downstream in the flow of pigs,” Baumert stated.

Batch farrowing allows full clean-out and sanitizing of a farrowing facility before the next batch of sows enters. On smaller hog farms, this rarely happens.

“A routine scour issue in baby piglets and the rotaviruses are better controlled if we can wash every farrowing crate within the system,” Baumert explained. “We’ve also seen diseases either better controlled or eliminated more quickly where every 30 days we move every baby pig off the farm. It helps in a number of both respiratory and enteric diseases.”

The batch method also reduces weaning stress.

“If we reorganize so those relatively small, independent farms farrow large batches of pigs at a time, we can cut down the number of pigs (from different sources) going into a nursery,” Baumert said. “We would put two or three groups of piglets in a nursery (rather than eight to 12 groups) and fill it in a relatively short period of time.

“Commingling pigs (from many sources) creates health issues and stress among the pigs,” he added.

Full lactation for all sows

Sows benefit from batch farrowing by staying on a schedule that allows full lactation for all sows. A few sows can’t be pulled out early to re-breed for another group.

“While this cuts down on the number of litters per sow per year, the litters are better quality,” Baumert said. “We’ll often see a moderate increase in pigs per litter for subsequent litters because every sow has a full lactation now.”

Sow farms with 1,000 to 1,200 sows may benefit most from a cooperative batch-farrowing system.

“I think the health advantages that it provides is what’s going to drive these small and intermediate-sized sow farms to join in the batch farrowing,” he stated.

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