Farrowing house: top tips for weaning extra pigs per sow
Focus Farm pig unit manager Wayne Connell spent three days on a study trip at JSR Farms. Below are what he considers to be the ‘top tips’ he picked up and implemented, which are helping achieve results in the farrowing house on the Focus Farm.
- Make sure sows all get up to eat every day.
- Clean the backs of the crates every day. Put shredded paper just at the side of the crates until the sow starts to farrow, then move paper to the back so piglets land on paper and dry out more quickly.
- Use a heat lamp at the back of the crate to warm the area into which the pig is being born. The farrowing house should be 21-23°C when the sows are farrowing.
- Record how many piglets the sow had, on or near the pen, allowing you to keep track of farrowings throughout the day, particularly when there are other jobs to do.
- Monitor the sow’s functioning teat numbers so you can decide how many piglets to keep on her.
- Move piglets to make up litters of similar sized piglets on a sow. This avoids small pigs needing to fight for milk.
- Very small piglets might benefit from receiving a booster.
- When moving piglets around in the farrowing houses, mark their ‘to’ and ‘from’ litters. This helps monitor them to see how well they are doing on different sows.
- Keep small pigs on young sows or gilts as they milk better than older sows and have smaller teats. Feed according to their appetite in farrowing week.
- Split suckling is a good alternative if the sow has too many piglets and you don’t have anywhere to put them. Put half in a box on the heat mat and keep half on the sow. Swap over every hour.
- If litters start fading (and are healthy), move (and swap) the whole litter with a fit litter rather than individual piglets as this stops spread of disease or infections around the farrowing house.
- Start giving piglets supplementary milk on day two, especially in large litters.
- Inject iron into the piglet’s neck rather than the leg. Remember to change needles between litters.
- When grinding teeth, take care only to grind the tip of the teeth. This will reduce infections in farrowing houses.
There is more information on farrowing house and newborn piglet management in AHDB Pork’s publications including Action for Productivity factsheets, case studies and work instructions.
The Practical Pig App has short video clips that can also be viewed on the website.
AHDB Pork’s farrowing discs can be ordered free of charge and used to record the sow’s progress.