August 2013 – It’s not a case of them and us

It’s easy to become embroiled in our own little world with all the problems associated with being a farmer, and more especially a pig farmer. Either the pig price is too low or the feed price is too high – or as has been the case for the past two years, both.

No one in farming wants to see any other sector suffer; it’s not a case of them and us, or at least it shouldn’t be. Being a small island, you’d think that so far as livestock and crops go, we shouldn’t be too badly affected by world markets.

This year we could struggle to produce an abundant wheat crop so why, when crops are also poor in other countries, does the price come down? I’m sure we could produce enough wheat for our own consumption to feed the national herd. If pork was the price it should be to reward producers for the amount of time and money they put into their businesses, they could pay a price for cereals that would let both sectors make a go of it.

We know that research here has taken a bit of a hammering, so it’s always interesting to hear of work carried out at the US Prairie Swine Centre (PSC). Some of its suggestions are quite simple, like taking the time to ensure the proper operation of ventilation system components before the hot weather arrives and making sure your controller is well adjusted. How many of us do that?

The PSC claims that the temperature set point for grower/finisher pigs can essentially be the same for winter and summer. It’s sometimes suggested that the summer set point be slightly increased in comparison to winter, to reduce daily temperature fluctuations occurring during hot periods.

Two recent experiments conducted at the PSC indicated that healthy pigs could adequately deal with large daily temperature fluctuations (up to 15C) as long as this fluctuation was progressively achieved. In other words, pigs are very sensitive to rapid temperature change, but do fine if there’s a slow increase or decrease.

The water intake of the pig has never really been clearly defined, but PSC research has shown that free choice water intake in young growing pigs is about 2.2-2.8 times the intake of feed, which means a pig taking in 2kg of feed will probably consume 4.5 litres of water, if not more. Nursing sows, meanwhile, will have an intake of four times their feed intake due to water needed for milk production. These estimates don’t allow for wastage, which can reach 40%.

Some of the PSC’s other work has investigated the impact of poor-quality water on pig performance. Mostly it shows that that the pig is capable of handling relatively high concentrations of sulphates and other mineral contaminants without apparent effect.
I have noticed recently that more farmers are actually cleaning their water pipes and tanks, which can become clogged and dirty. Some actually disconnect their tanks each time they pressure wash a building and give the tank a good blast as well.

> Sam Walton was the founding editor of Pig World.

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