Nursery proves its worth

A purpose-built piglet nursery on a Suffolk farm has saved enough piglets to improve returns by more than £79,000 in just a year.

When Rattlerow Farms installed the portable, container-style nursery on its 600-sow commercial unit at Hill House Farm, Stradbroke, it estimated that it would enable the farm to rear about 700 extra pigs annually. In fact, this prediction was almost spot-on.

Agrosoft records show that average numbers born alive from the prolific Whiteland sows has been remarkably consistent at between 13.5 and 13.7 during the past three years. However, since delivery of the nursery, designed and built by Quality Equipment, mortality has fallen dramatically with a proportional rise in numbers reared.

“We’re rearing an extra half-a-pig per litter – 693 pigs during the recording period,” unit manager Adrian Scarfe says. “Within the first three months, numbers weaned increased from 11.5-11.7 to 12.3 pigs per litter. It has made farrowing house management easier and improved welfare for both sows and piglets.”

Even at today’s prices, Mr Scarfe calculates that selling the extra pigs at 84kg deadweight would result in a gross return of £79,750.

Sows are farrowed in batches of 80 every three weeks, and farrowing house manager Jamie Brown weans litters of heavier piglets early to enable the sows to foster smaller pigs. This is normally done at eight to 10 days, but they have been successful in rearing pigs as early as five days.

Transition Feeders within the nursery enable the pigs to be given warm milk initially, then a variety of specialist diets, both wet and dry, as they grow. A trial compared the post-weaning performance of piglets from the farrowing house against piglets reared through the nursery, recording their weights at weaning age of 28 days and then again 13 days later. Although the piglets from the nursery were initially lighter than the average from the farrowing house, during the trial period they gained 1.66kg more and finished heavier at 11.54kg, compared with 11.11kg from the farrowing house, an increase of 128g/day/pig across 980 pigs.

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