Three Ways to Reach Optimal Pig Nursery Performance

Young Animal : Health Stresses

Dan McManus, DVM

Young Animal Swine, Technical Sales Specialist

Have you been looking for ways to save input costs on your wean-to-finish or grower/finisher operation?

Before you start cutting, take a hard look at how well you are managing transitions. You might find a low-cost change in swine management could save more money than a cut to inputs in the long run.
Smooth transitions help pigs stay focused on intake and feed conversion for optimal gut health and overall performance. If you manage the environment to limit transitional challenges, you can help your pigs build on their weaning weights for optimal-of-nursery weights.
According to research at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center, weaning weights and end-of-nursery weights are strong predictors of finishing weights. In an 18-month study involving 1,770 pigs, results indicated each additional pound at weaning was correlated to an increase of 1.8 pounds at Day 32. Each additional pound at Day 32 post-weaning correlated to 2.1 additional pounds at finishing on Day 110.1

Here are three tips to help improve pig nursery transitions so your pigs can build on weaning weights and help optimize your ROI.

1. Know what your pigs need before arrival  

The more you know about the way the source farm operates, the better job you can do minimizing changes for the pigs. Be sure to confirm the exact number of head and arrival dates, the ages and weights of the pigs and the percentage of health-challenged pigs.
Good communication with the sow farm will allow you to be prepared and anticipate any issues that might come up in the first few weeks after weaning. Every change you eliminate is one less hurdle for your pigs to jump in the nursery pen.

2. Minimize stress with a spotless environment  

One simple, low-cost way to promote healthy pigs is to be diligent when cleaning before new groups arrive. Clean your barn top to bottom, inside and out. This includes cleaning slats, feeders, gating, inlets, fans and curtains, as well as office equipment, boots, rattle paddles and sorting panels. All surfaces should be disinfected and dried before new pigs arrive. Consider inspecting the facility when cleaning is finished to make sure it meets your expectations.  
Thorough cleaning and management of the environment will help reduce stress factors including disease risk to give arriving pigs the opportunity to perform their best.

3, Manage each pig’s needs  

Have a plan in place to stock your pens, but be ready to be flexible. Proper swine management includes making sure your pens meet the space requirements for pigs by weight. When the pigs come off the truck, they might not fit exactly into the plan you created. But, a well thought out pig housing plan that can be adapted to meet challenges will help you be ready for success in any situation.
You can expect 10 percent of the delivered pigs to be smaller than desirable. Plan ahead to manage these pigs differently. Separating small pigs from the main population will allow you to feed and manage to their needs to help them optimize their weaning weight and overall performance.
Communicating with the source farm, thoroughly cleaning the barn and developing a well thought out stocking plan can be effective tools to help provide a smooth pig nursery transition. By managing the environment, you are helping pigs to maintain and build on their weaning weights to reach their optimal weights at end-of-nursery. The more you can remove obstacles for your pigs, the smoother transition they will have, and the better return you can get on your input investment.

Connect with your local Purina representative to talk about nutritional tools to support pig health and performance.
1DeRodas, B. “Correlation of Weaning Numbers to Finishing Productivity.” Summary of data from Purina Animal Nutrition Center. August 14, 2015.