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:

Author(s): Ed Barrie
Publication Date: January 1, 2006
Reference: Government of Ontario/ Ed Barrie, July 14, 2006
Country: Canada


As the health challenges facing the swine industry continue to evolve and change, the management practices needed to support production must also change. In a paper presented at the London Swine Conference, Dr. Monte McCaw outlined the limited cross fostering procedures that are showing positive results. The intent of these procedures is to confine health problems to as small a group as possible and move them through the production system.Point #1 – Don’t cross foster piglets after 24 hours of age. You would move only the minimum number of piglets to load functional teats, and not one pig more. Knowing when to stop and start cross fostering is a critical component here. For instance, you would no longer cross foster to create litters of uniform size or sex. When you have extra medium or large pigs that must be moved, match them by size and milking ability of the receiving sows and litter. You should ensure that smallest piglets are given the lowest priority for functional teat assignment. They are best left on their birth sow or moved as extras when there are more piglets than available teats. The highlight of this whole section comes down to maximizing the number of piglets left on their birth mother, cross fostering only once within 24 hours of birth, and if faced with surplus pigs maximizing the number of pigs on colostrum mothers. Point #2 – in Dr. McCaw’s presentation, the point was made to not move piglets between rooms. It is imperative to follow strict all in, all out production practices. Moving pigs between rooms presents far too many threats to all animals involved to any longer consider it a useful or appropriate procedure. Thinking along other lines, the litter is now the all in, all out unit. We traditionally thought rooms, or even whole facilities, but this is now restricted to as small a unit as possible which is the litter.Point #3 – made by Dr. McCaw covered culling. He strongly recommended removing very sick, moribund or bad body condition pigs from the system. He recommended producers sell or eliminate piglets at weaning that are too light to survive in the nursery and have poor body condition. If you have to treat piglets and they don’t get better quickly after treatment, they should also be removed immediately from your production system. Other piglets that show symptoms of very thin, starved out, lameness, light body weight, long hair or chronic illness should be removed from the production system as they appear. It is important to remember a piglet held back from weaning takes a teat away from a younger potentially healthier pig. In the area of Nursery Management the priorities according to Dr. McCaw included:• Carefully sorting piglets into pens according to size. Equals are equal and less equal will suffer accordingly. Care should be taken to place the smallest piglets in the part of the room that is most free of drafts and remains warm enough to support them. Special efforts in feeding must be made. He recommends hand feeding four times daily for at least five days. When deciding to switch rations the decision should be based on the weight of the pigs in the pen, not the weight of the pigs in the room. Supplemental heat (lamps) and plastic mats must be used if required, and are most often required. A drinker that runs water constantly should be available at a level that all pigs can reach for the first 24 hours after weaning. • Gilt and sow management are major factors in determining the number of piglets weaned in a room. You cannot reasonably expect to wean more quality pigs than there are functional teats in a farrowing room. To achieve high functional teat scores requires careful gilt selection and refined records of functional teat numbers in previous lactations.Now to expand on this material and put some numbers on it, we can go to a talk delivered November 30, 2005 at the Shakespeare production seminar by Dr. Sue Burlatshenko. She applied some nursery math in her presentation at a level that most of us can understand. Assume the death rate in pigs weaned at less that 3.8 kg is 45%. Assume the death rate of pigs between 3.8 and 5 kg is 12%, and assure the opportunity cost (had the pig lived) of a dead or live weight pig is $37. So every pig less than 3.8 kg entering the nursery has an opportunity cost of 45% of $37. = $16.65. Every pig between 3.8 and 5 kg has an opportunity cost of 12% times $37 equals $4.44, therefore, $16.65 – $4.44 = $12.21 that can be used to address potential treatment methods for these pigs.The message from these two papers is that management must pay extreme attention to detail and be carried out correctly in all instances to achieve the best levels of healthy weaner pigs, when faced with serious disease challenges.

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