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:

Adopting New Technology in Group 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 – 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

Comparison of alternatives for the control and detection of boar taint in market hogs

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre by Ken Engele on July 12, 2018 | No Comments

Author:  Brian Sullivan, Brianna Sullivan and Laurence Maignel – Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement

Reference:  Centred on Swine. Volume 24, Number 2


Many recent studies have compared intact males and castrates, or castrates and Improvest® treated males. This study is rare in that it includes females, castrates, Improvest® treated males and intact males from the same litters, all tested under similar conditions. These comparisons provide valuable information on differences that can be expected for both producers and packers to plan for and make decisions related to options for control of boar taint.  This study confirmed the advantages of raising intact males in terms of growth performance compared to females and castrates. Improvest® treatment is an interesting option because it gives the benefit of improved growth performance of intact males while producing carcasses of similar composition to castrates.  Genetic selection based on specific genetic markers shows potential for producing intact males with naturally low enough levels of androstenone and skatole to avoid boar taint problems.

However, more research is needed on genetic evaluation methods, consideration of influence of genetics from the maternal breeds and to incorporate newly identified genetic markers. The impact of management and environment also needs to be considered as large differences in the levels of boar taint were observed between trials.  The combination of management and genetics could result in lower and lower probability of carcasses from intact males having boar taint.  A new technology based on DNA aptamers shows great promise to lead to a reliable, practical and affordable screening test for boar taint. This could be in the form of a simple kit similar to a home pregnancy test available for humans. The ability to screen for boar taint combined with genetic selection to lower the frequency of intact males that have boar taint problems could lead to a viable alternative for control of boar taint.

Control and Detection of Boar Taint CCSI

Compounding Iron Dextran with NSAIDs at Processing

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre, Production by student on June 19, 2018 | No Comments

Author: Ron Johnson

Publication: Centred on Swine, Winter 2016 Volume 22 Number 2


The objective of this project was to evaluate whether the mixing (compounding) of NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory/analgesic agents), such as meloxicam or flunixin meglumine, with iron dextran for administration to piglets at the time of processing has any effects on the availability of the NSAID.


In a series of experiments, the stability and systemic availability of both NSAIDs when mixed with iron dextran in the same bottle for administration to piglets at the time of processing was evaluated. Additionally, the effects of this practice on iron dextran’s ability to increase piglet hemoglobin concentrations were studied.


It was found that the amount of NSAID recovered from the bottle was reduced beginning shortly after mixing.  As well that blood drug levels measured in piglets for each NSAID when compounded with iron dextran was significantly lower than when each NSAID was administered alone to piglets.


There were no significant effects of mixing NSAIDs with iron dextran on iron dextran’s ability to increase hemoglobin following administration to piglets.  The overall conclusion from these experiments is that the mixing of NSAIDs with iron dextran in the same bottle for administration to piglets at the time of processing results in a suspected drug interaction that reduces the shelf-life of the formulation and the amount of NSAID available for therapeutic effects.

Compounding Iron Dextran with NSAIDs at Processing


Using Exploratory Behavior to Increase Pre-Weaning Creep Consumption

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Author: Yolande Seddon and Jennifer Brown

Publication: Centred on Swine, Winter 2016 Volume 22 Number 2


This trial investigated if feed consumption both before and after weaning could be increased through stimulating exploratory behavior in piglets. This study question which method would be the best to stimulate exploratory behavior, through the provision of enrichment or through the use of creep feed.


The study concluded that when comparing a large tray feeder to that of a standard feeder, the large tray feeder was more effective at encouraging social feeding and therefor attracting the piglets to creep. The large tray feeder was also more effective than the enrichment, which was a rope that was hung in the farrowing crate.


The tray feeder before weaning also had a positive growth effect on piglets immediately following weaning. It is likely that these growth benefits arose from piglets more readily taking to solid food post weaning as they had already been exposed to it.


These results are favorable as piglets with a reduced growth check post weaning are less likely to have a reduced immune response, making them better prepared for immune challenge.

 Using Exploratory Behavior to Increae Pre-Weaning Creep Consumption

Managing Sows in Groups from Weaning: Are there Advantages

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

Author: Yolande Seddon and Jennifer Brown

Publication: Centred on Swine, Winter 2016 Volume 22 Number 2


With growing consumer and retailer pressure to limit the utilization of confinement, gestation stalls have been banned in many parts of the world. The question is, with these limitations on stall use have implications for sow fertility and production or could this be advantageous.


This study compared three different times of group housing for sows: Early mixing (directly after weaning), Late Mixing (mixed at five weeks gestation) and pre-socialization (mixed for two days after weaning then stall housed until five weeks gestation).


Measurements were taken for sow aggression, welfare and reproductive performance, and salivary cortisol levels.


In conclusion, they determined that welfare was not significantly affected by the mixing treatments. Grouping sows at weaning is a viable option with correct conditions and management. Grouping sows at weaning appeared to display production advantages indicated by improved conception rates and reduced stillborns.


More work is needed with regards to this hypothesis as the same results may not be evident in a group feeding system where sows are forced to cope with a higher level of competition.

Managing Sows in Groups Post Weaning – Are there Advantages


Can Flaxseed Replace Antibiotics in Nursery Diets?

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Author: Laura Eastwood and Denise Beaulieu

Publication: Centred on Swine, Winter 2016 Volume 22 Number 2


Due to the phasing out of antibiotics from feed it is essential to find alternative strategies to aid in nutritional modulation and to help piglets cope with weaning. During weaning they are exposed to three major stressors: nutritional, environmental and social.


In addition to determining if flaxseed would be an effective alternative to antibiotics the study also looked at weaning at 3 weeks of age versus weaning at 4 weeks of age.


The results from this trial show that in a high health situation utilizing antibiotics in feed has no benefit regardless of the age that the piglets are weaned at. In addition, at nursery exit (8 weeks of age), piglets that were weaned at 3 weeks of age had heavier body weights then those weaned at 4 weeks of age. This is believed to be due to that fact that piglets weaned at 3 weeks of age had lower WBC, CK and AST counts.

Can Flaxseed Replace Antibiotics in Nursery Diets


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