Blog > April 2020 > Walking Your Finishing Barn

Walking Your Finishing Barn

April 21, 2020

Producers routinely walk their finishing barns every day, at least twice a day, as a rule. By doing this, they observe the condition of the pigs and their environment. Every day is a different situation that needs to be evaluated. Weather changes such as heat, cold, and wind can affect what is happening inside the barn. Changes in herd health and individual pig health, social interactions, air quality, feed grind size, and water flow must be checked and adjusted to keep a barn running smooth.
When a producer enters a barn, he should try to observe the pigs without disturbing them, to see if they are laying comfortably. Seeing the pigs huddled up, or stretched out without touching tells him the barn is too cool or too warm, respectively. Are they exhibiting behaviors, such as tail-biting? How full are the feeder spaces? Is there adequate space at the waterers without too much waiting time? This tells you what is happening before you go in the barn, excite the pigs, and change all those patterns.
I know firsthand that it is difficult to walk in the pens with some of the aggressive behaviors the pigs have these days, especially as they get close to market weight. However, it is essential to be in the pens every day, so the pigs get accustomed to you.
You cannot get a good look at every pig in every pen from the center aisle. A pig that is in the first stages of a health challenge can usually be identified by getting it up and watching its behavior. Then, if need be, it can be treated effectively and probably recover. Not catching it the first day, extends the treatment period and cost, at best, and may lead to its death later. I am a firm believer in having the products to treat a pig with you when you walk a barn. Having to go back to a refrigerator to get an injectable antibiotic, too often leads to a pig that doesn’t get treated. I like to see a producer have something like a fishing vest with multiple pockets for a couple of different antibiotics, syringes, needles, paint sticks, etc. That allows him to treat and mark a pig on the spot.
The day-to-day aspects of ventilation are a subject impossible to cover in a few words. Proper ventilation is a fine art, and like art, you know what you like when you see it. When you are in a barn, you must evaluate how comfortable the air is to you, and the pigs. If the air is stale, and there is too much of the pit gas in it, it will be uncomfortable for you, and unhealthy for the pigs that live in it 24 hours a day. I know that in many situations moving more air means burning some propane, but we must do what is best for the pigs and the people managing them. Many producers tend to run their finishing barns too warm, especially once the pigs start getting heavier. A good rule of thumb is to start a barn out with a new group of finishing pigs in the 72-74 degree range, then step them down to 62 degrees over the next seven weeks, and hold 62 degrees to marketing. This will not only allow you to move more air but will also stimulate more intake and gain.  
One of the most important tasks walking the barn is to look at feeder adjustment daily. The industry rule of thumb is to be able to see 40-50% of the steel of the feeder tray. That gets you in the ballpark, but it is not where you want to quit. You can have your feeder too open or closed, but still, have the feed tray look good. There is a “sweet spot” on every feeder type, that is where you are maximizing intake and gain, without sacrificing feed efficiency. The best way to learn this is through studying your closeouts and seeing where different feeder settings impact gain and feed efficiency.
Every waterer needs to be checked every day. The first clue that a waterer may be a problem is having more pigs than normal lined up trying to get a drink. A nipple waterer is most likely to cause problems. The flow rate for a group of finishing pigs is 32 ounces (1 quart) per minute through a nipple. There needs to be one nipple waterer for every 12 head in a pen. Other types of waterers are rated for different numbers of pigs. Whichever type of waterer you have, simply watch the pigs on the hottest, driest day of the year, if the pigs are drinking comfortably, there is adequate water supply. 
The hospital pen is the last area I want to discuss. A hospital pen should be used for every pig in the barn that is showing health problems or injury. It really should not be used as a permanent home for a pig. When a pig is placed in it, it should be treated each day until it recovers, then placed back in its pen.
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By Steve Jones



Posted: 4/21/2020 1:24:52 AM by Kelli Reznicek | with 0 comments

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