Prairie Swine Centre

 Industry Partners

Prairie Swine Centre is an affiliate of the University of Saskatchewan

Prairie Swine Centre is grateful for the assistance of the George Morris Centre in developing the economics portion of Pork Insight.

Financial support for the Enterprise Model Project and Pork Insight has been provided by:

Gestation Housing Systems: Auditing Best Management Practices: Part 4

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre, Production by student on August 3, 2018 | No Comments

Author: Ken Engele, BSA

Reference: Centred on Swine Fall 2018, Volume 24, Number 2

Summary: At the forefront of swine production is the change to group sow housing. As a means to provide more information to producers and aid them in making the conversion by the 2024 deadline this article focuses on the best management practices in relation to many gestation housing systems.

Nine of the 24 facilities that were audited incorporated group sow housing into their practice. It has been estimated that nation wide 15% of sows are being housed in group housing.

Of the facilities that were audited who are currently housing their sows in a group housed setting two thirds of them have chosen to incorporate a non-competitive feeding system. For those who have chosen to utilize a competitive feeding system have typically done so due to the cheaper cost associated with conversion.

Electronic sow feeding systems are an effective measure for data collection and a herd management tool. An opportunity that electronic feeding systems generally offer is the ability to feed multiple gestation diets through the sow herd. Research has displayed the need for parity specific diets due to amino acid and energy requirements.

For producers who are looking to make the transition to group sow housing there are many resources that they can access. They can go to the website: to find a variety of information.

Demonstrating Water Conservation

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Author: Ken Engele, BSA

Reference: Centred on Swine Fall 2018, Volume 24, Number 2

Summary: Research has demonstrated that even when the nipple drinkers are properly adjusted in a finisher barn the pigs will waste 25% of the water. Water wastage on commercial farms from nipple drinkers has been reported to be as high as 40-60%. A recent audit determined that approximately 2/3 of nipple drinkers provide water volumes that exceed the requirement of the pig, sometimes doubling the required volume.

When considering water conservation, barn evaluations determined that the use of a drinking trough save 60% of water, mainly due to reduced water wastage. The water trough did not impede the performance of the pig.

Potential economic benefits were calculated for a commercial farm that implemented water troughs. Over a 24 week period, water disappearance from water troughs was 20% less than from traditional nipple drinkers. For one year and 170 pigs the difference in water disappearance with a trough set up would be 89,250 L.  As well considering the cost of manure disposal (assuming that the excess water ends up in the pits) there would also be a savings of $343 for 170 pigs.

Advantages Disadvantages
Significant water savings

Reduced manure volume

Installed with off-the-shelf components

Improved biosecurity – less traffic to the barn site

One more thing to wash – corners

Higher potential contamination of water in the trough

The producer who installed the troughs for the purpose of this study will continue to use the troughs due to the advantages of reduced water usage and decrease manure volume.


Washing Procedures: Auditing Best Management Practices – Part 3

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre, Production, Uncategorized by student on | No Comments

Author: Ken Engele, BSA

Reference: Centred on Swine Fall 2018 Volume 24, Number 2

Summary: In a swine barn the top usage of water is allocated to animals drinking as well as for the purposes of cleaning. Decreasing water utilization within facilities will aid in developing a more sustainable environment and lower the cost of production.

One aspect that is included in many washing protocols is pre-soaking. Many facilities pre-soak a room prior to pressure washing, however this is not always necessary as pressure washing in a fully slatted floor can be completed without pre-soak. Pre-soaking the room increases the utilization of water. However, when considering partially slatted floors it was evident that an it took longer to wash the room if it was not pre-soaked.

Nozzle selection can also have a significant influence on water utilization. Research has identified that when considering water conservation the use of conventional nozzles leads to the lowest volume of water used, as well as time spent washing those rooms.


Transitioning to Loose Sow Housing

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre, Production, Swine Innovation by student on July 25, 2018 | No Comments

Author: John Van Engelen


John Van Engelen describes the phases of his conversion for stall housing to group housing for sows.

Group Sow Housing Across Canada: What Have We Seen

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Author: Doug Richards and Dr. Jennifer Brown


This project had Doug Richard and Dr. Jennifer Brown traveling across the country to visit and tour barns with producers that had group sow houses or were going to put it in.

The following is a brief tour of what they saw:

New Brunswick: 1200 sow operation, since 2004. Saw the benefits of genetic selection over 12 years, well oiled machines. Benefit of culling for genetics. Has a shower unit.

Quebec: 850 sow operation, solid bedrooms with partitions. Renovation. Has solid floors in the middle.

Quebec: 600 sow. Renovation. Utilized Gestal operation.

Ontario: 1400 sow operation, new build, each pen has 17-18 sows. Has to go off of parity and size, “gilts in their first parity cause a lot of problems”. This was the only competitive feeding system. There are not partitions. Feed in the morning.

Ontario: 650 sow operation. Renovation. Fully slated barn.

Ontario: 1800 sow. Partitions, sows like to have something against their back and their side.

Ontario: 220 sow.

Ontario: 100 sow Organic, 23 pigs per pen. Allows the pigs outside. Farrowing crate is 81 sq feet and only closed for four hours.

Manitoba: 3000 sow operation. Never loss production. Rented another bar. Then once the one side was completed they moved the sows from the one side to the other and started construction on the other half. The sows that were send out to the rented barn where not brought back to the property they were culled.

Manitoba: 650 operation. Put in a training unit. This is one thing that was lacking in most of the systems.

Saskatchewan: 600 sow operation. The gilt barn is totally slatted, sow barn has some solids.

Alberta: 275 sow, conversion. Have to work with the manufacturer to see what you can do.

Takes different staff training to work with these animals as they do not respond the same way that stall housed sows do.

Adopting New Technology in Group Sow Housing

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Author: John Van Engelen – Hog-Tied Farms Ltd.

Summary: Sow Shower that clean up the sows before putting them into the nice clean farrowing crates. They sows are disinfected and come out with a nice lemon scent.

Mr. Van Engelen has installed Air crates for some of his farrowing crates. There are three “fingers” above the sow, when they sow hits the “fingers” it triggers the crate to rise up about 9 inches. This technology decreases the amount of piglets laid on, it saves approximately 75% of laid on. Of the four crates that he has installed in five years he has had only eight pigs laid on. Although they are advantageous through decreasing laid on piglets, each crate is approximately $1000 extra to install.

Wifi through the barn had to be installed for the farrowing feed system. The wifi aids in keeping people informed, people are capable of seeing how far along the sow is, how much she is eating, have the ability to change her BCS in the system and the diet that she is receiving.

Experimenting with nursery feeders at the moment as he is expanding next year. The two feeders he is experimenting with are a manual and automatic wet/dry feeder. He is finding that they automatic works better, however it does cost the producer $1200 extra to install.

3 way sorters with RFID Technology, pigs are assorted three different ways with the light pigs, medium pigs and heavy pigs all being separated.

Pig Performance Tester, installed in 2013. Records feed intake and weight.

Sow Nutrition in Group Housing Systems

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre, Production, Swine Innovation by student on | No Comments

Speaker: Dr. Hyatt Frobose


Increase in protein deposition over the course of gestation, later in gestation have an increased protein due to increase in mammary development. Three main components to energy are: maintenance, target maternal BW gain, and fetal development. Have to adjust basal requirement due to a variety of factors including: environmental temperature, housing system, health status and sow size (different parities).

There are broad categories of feeding systems, competitive and non competitive feeding systems. Aggression can have consequences such as an increased mortality rate, removals (due to lame or aborts), have to assume that all the sows are eating, and due to variation in body condition score potentially need to overfeed the group.

Over conditioned sows are costly because they are wasting feed and they have decreased productivity in the subsequent lactation. Common causes of over conditioned sows are overfeeding an entire pen to improve BCS of thin sows, not calibrating ESF, and improper staff training with regards to BCS.

Try to identify “non-eaters” quickly and move them to a relief pen.

Increasing inclusion of fibre helps to increase satiety and decrease aggression. However, variability in nutrients is significant in high fibre diets. There is also a greater risk of mycotoxin contamination in feeding high fibre diets.

Bump Feeding: traditionally, showed that sows had higher birth weights. However, most of the recent data shows that there is a limited to no benefit from pump feeding.

Parity Specific Diets – most diets are formulated to meet the requirements of gilts as they have higher amino acid and calcium requirements than older sows. Opportunity exists to save on the older sows as we can feed a diet that is more sync with their requirements, rather than overfeeding amino acids.

Prairie Swine Group Housing Jennifer Brown

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre, Production, Swine Innovation by student on July 20, 2018 | No Comments

Speaker: Jennifer Brown, Research Scientist – Ethology


Ethology is the field of animal behavior, Dr. Brown’s work tries to understand what motivates a sow, and pigs in general, to do what they do and how to translate this into management practices.

Social Interaction and Aggression in Sows

Previously animal management has occurred in stalls, new management practices will require more husbandry skills. It is evident that there are two main issues that aggression occurs in sows:

  1.  Mixing aggression: first 24-48 hours. Fighting occurs to establish their social status.
  2.  Ongoing aggression: occurs after social order has been established

Management that can help reduce aggression in sows revolves around familiarity, previous experience, genetics, pen design, feeding, odour, group size/composition, and time of day.

There are four main feeding systems:

  1. Floor feeding
  2. Shoulder stalls
  3. ESF
  4. Free-Access Stalls

The style of feeding system will strongly influence the group size. Feeding systems that are competitive work better with a smaller group size, whereas a noncompetitive feeding system allows are larger group size.

Space Allowance:

Space costs money, therefor it is important to determine what the break point is where the sows are experiencing adverse effects.  The Code of Practice outlines recommendations regarding minimum space allowance for both gilts and sows. Smaller groups require larger allowances than larger groups as there is not as much shared space.

Pen design is critical and it is important to consider space allowance, feeders and drinkers (location and ratio), layout and separation of dunging, feeding and resting areas.

Building New or Renovation: What to Consider

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Author: Murray Elliot


Swine Innovation Porc and Prairie Swine Center collaborated to hold meetings in both Manitoba and Alberta to aid hog producers on what to consider when making expansion plans.

“The focus is really to help people have a look at their current facilities. It can incorporate plans of what they hope to do in the future and to put those two together to make a facility that meets the new code of practices and meets current production today” – Murray Elliot

Pork producers are asking themselves whether they should be building new or renovate due to the 2024 codes of practice that they will need to implement. Although building from scratch is advantageous allowing hog farmers to develop exactly what they want the cost is generally much greater.

When completely rebuilding producers must adhere to the new codes and all of the minimum distances, however when renovating often the producer is grandfathered in. If the facility is in good shape it can generally be renovated at half the cost of completely rebuilding. However, with the new codes most herds do not fit into the old buildings, so most renovations turn into a renovation and an addition.

Performance response of piglets to acid-preserved, high-moisture wheat

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre by Ken Engele on July 19, 2018 | No Comments

One objective of this trial was to determine the effectiveness of feeding acid-preserved, high moisture wheat as an alternative to directly supplementing acid to the wheat diet of weanling pigs. Acidification of wheat with propionic acid resulted in a significant improvement in feed efficiency (G:F) in pigs on days 8 to 21 after weaning, regardless of the method of application. This improvement occurred by contrast to the non-acid control and to diets containing phosphoric acid. So feeding acid-preserved wheat using propionic acid (APW-Prop) had comparable performance with pigs fed acidified diets using propionic acid (AD-Prop).

High Moisture Wheat

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