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AHDB Pork Blog

Head in a trough by Steve Winfield

I don’t tend to go abroad that often, but earlier this year I was fortunate enough to visit some indoor breeding units in Germany. I was travelling with some colleagues, visiting a couple of farms as well as Futterkamp, a combined training and research centre for agriculture.


One of the things which particularly caught my attention was how one of the farmers had opted to replace his milk cups with troughs, improving his weaning weights.

Around a year and a half ago, Frank Wille was dry feeding his sows, achieving 82-85kg per litter weaned. He introduced milk to the piglets and the weight increased to 92-95kg per litter weaned, ultimately reaching 100-102kg. Frank told me he had been feeding milk in cups for three years, but still wasn’t happy with what was being achieved. He approached a different nutrition company and set them a task: “Keep my weight but reduce my costs!” So the company suggested replacing the milk cups with troughs.

Although a similar principle, Frank made it clear that there is a distinction between cups and troughs. One trough covers two pens, extending only 7cm into each. This means there is no wastage and, importantly, the troughs stay clean. A thick, warm, milk, almost like yoghurt, is dropped into the troughs 80-90 times a day. Piglets which don’t get access to a teat have learnt to survive and even thrive off the troughs. It was fascinating to watch this happen, as the sows lay down, the piglets lined up accordingly, teat or trough!

By replacing the milk cups with troughs, weaning weights increased to 105-110kg per litter weaned at 26 days. Average piglet weaning weights are 8.7kg with an average 12.5 piglets weaned per litter.

As stated, Frank’s remit was “keep my weight but reduce my costs”. The reality is that weight has gone up and costs have come down – a double win!

It’s worth noting that Frank isn’t using any in-feed medication, as there is a separate water line to deliver water medication in a targeted way, if required.

milk trough

You can see some of the photos from my trip to Germany in this photo story.

By AHDB Pork at 17 Oct 2016, 11:12 AM


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