Animal Observation in Swine Barns

November 5, 2018


For a pig to reach peak performance, the animal must be comfortable in its environment. Daily walk-throughs of swine facilities are essential to ensure pigs are content and to avoid possible challenges that may develop. Behavioral or physical cues to watch for include changes in sleeping habits, mental status (does the pig look alert or stressed?), body condition, hydration, and appetite.  If you are noticing changes in these areas, always start with a facility check.

Just like a pen rider in a feedlot, check your swine barn to ensure every pig has access to clean drinking water. The new norm is one drink station per every 10 pigs, compared to 1 every 25 pigs in the past.  Another area is feed management. To guarantee your feed is fresh, only keep 24-hours’ worth of feed in a pen feeder. Younger weaned pigs need at least 1 inch of feeder space, while older pigs should have 2 inches. Some questions to keep in mind are: Are the feeders flowing with fresh feed and is there enough feed on hand to give my feed provider enough time to get to my barn before running out?

Determining adequate air flow through the barn when walking through a facility is another important factor to consider. Ammonia or other strong odors are not good for the pigs. Secondly, be sure to monitor the moisture in a pen. When looking at the floor, if wet spots are present, address the situation right away. Also, listen to hear if pigs are sneezing or coughing as this could be a sign of cold or heat stress. Temperatures in the barn for newly weaned pigs should be around 85 degrees along the floor boards at day 1, then adjusted accordingly. Floor type, air speed, insulation, and evaporation cooling will all affect temperatures so work with your feed specialist to ensure you have it at the correct degree. Lastly, take the time to make sure every pig is able to get up and walk to their feed/water. Any pigs that are lame or bleeding should be immediately moved to another pen.

 So how does barn observation impact feed intake? The health of a pig’s intestinal lining plays a major role from weaning to finish. And since pigs are very sensitive, their intestinal health is affected by environmental settings. If the gut lining is broken down, the animal may be susceptible to illness by pathogens crossing the gut barrier. To avoid this, a starter feed is recommended. Starter feeds increase the ability of the pig to absorb nutrients and reach optimal gains. Early nursery gains set pigs up to finish at a lower finishing cost per pig. Newly weaned pigs and pigs close to finish are the hardest weights to keep healthy as weaned pigs are just learning to eat and finishing pigs may be dealing with heat stress or possible health issues created from the length of time spent in a barn. At Central Valley Ag, we offer Ultracare, a starter gel for days 0-4 post weaning to help overcome stress in newly waned pigs.  And for finishing pigs, we offer Ambitine, a late finishing feed to help support gut health. Our swine team at Central Valley Ag is here to help producers every step of the way. Whether it’s a starter feed or trouble shooting an environmental issue, our experts are here to help your operation succeed.

by Brandi Salestrom
Posted: 11/5/2018 9:38:07 AM by Kristin Petersen | with 0 comments