Common Errors in Young Pig Management

Young Animal : Management

Dan McManus, DVM

Young Animal Swine, Technical Sales Specialist

In my farm visits with customers, I have noticed some errors in young pig management that are consistent across many farms and buildings.

Here’s a list of the more common mistakes, in no particular order of importance.

Comfort board area for new pigs in wean-to-finish barns

Comfort is critical for pigs as they transition through weaning. Provide newly weaned pigs a minimum of 0.5 square feet per pig of comfort space in the sleeping area.
A comfort board is recommended for pigs to lay on. A 4-foot by 8-foot comfort board can handle up to 64 pigs per pen. As numbers per pen increase, add more comfort board area. Additionally, adjust the brooder heaters to provide the desired temperature across the surface area of the mat or board.

Minimum ventilation setup in wean-to-finish barns

Air flow is another essential piece of the wean-to-finish atmosphere.

A 1,200-head wean-to-finish barn needs 2 cubic feet of air per minute (CFM) per pig or 2,400 CFM to reach minimum ventilation for weaned pigs. 

Many barns are set up by the contractor or the electrician to have 2-24 inch pit fans running at 40-50 percent for minimum ventilation. Most 24 inch fans provide 7,000 CFM. With 2 fans at 40 percent, we have 5,600 CFM or about 5 CFM per pig. That is an excellent set up if we have 50 pound feeder pigs, but results in excessive propane use for weaned pigs.
Manually turn off one of the 24 inch fans to achieve minimum requirements. Turn the fan back on when the pigs approach 40-50 pounds. If you have actuated inlets, you may need to reset the system for proper ventilation.

Good controller knowledge

Computerized system and modern software can be helpful tools in young pig management, but must be used properly.
The controllers are the computers that run the ventilation systems of your barn. Become familiar with their operations and their settings; they can be your best friend or, if managed improperly, can be your worst nightmare.
Teach all employees how to use the system so they can make necessary adjustments, if needed.

Moving pigs too quickly onto a simple corn-soy diet

The transition onto solid feed is our top priority at weaning. Because of its importance, be sure to carefully plan the ration, ensuring that each step is similar to the previous ration.
In an effort to hold down costs, I see too many producers moving pigs too quickly from a milk based diet to corn-soy. The young pig has been exposed only to a milk diet while on the sow. Its digestive enzymes are set to handle the proteins and carbohydrates found in milk.
Changing the diet too soon can result in reduced growth rates and poorer conversions. These animals need to undergo a transition that allows them to develop their enzymes for digestion of cereal grains and soybean meal.
In my experience, pigs must weigh a minimum of 25-30 pounds for this transition period to be complete. If you see healthy pigs with lower than target average daily gain (ADG) and higher feed efficiency, evaluate your transition strategy.

Too coarse a grind on the feed

We know that a uniform grind is important, but grinding as finely as we can improve feed efficiency and performance.
I understand that feeders and bulk bin bridging can be a problem, but we need to push ourselves to manage that process.
With high grain costs, a reduction of 100 microns can increase feed efficiency by $1.00 per pig. If a good feed mill feeds 200,000 pigs per year, well, the math is simple. I know of feed mills which have gotten their roller mill meal diets to below 580 microns with good uniformity.

Feed outage

Almost every time I visit barns, there is a pen or barn out of feed. We all know the damage that can be caused by running pigs out of feed. Check the feeders every day.

If a feeding system is not working, determine the cause of the feed outage and work on a plan to fix it. After all, feed is the most important step in the weaning transition.
Read more about the fundamentals of a successful young pig program.