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Grower-Finisher Barn Management

by 5m Editor
13 June 2012, at 12:00am

In a presentation to the London Swine Conference 2012, 10 rules to optimise nursery–grow–finish productivity were discussed, reports Ed Barrie, Sow Weaner Pig Specialist at Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) in that organisation’s <em>Pork News and Views</em> newsletter.

The actual practice of barn management especially in larger barns, has long been a subject of discussion. One of the basic principals of providing proper care for an animal is that it must be seen, its needs assessed and if required, corrective action be taken immediately.

In a presentation to the London Swine Conference 2012, 10 rules to optimise nursery–grow–finish productivity were discussed. Greg Wideman and John Otten of Southwest Ontario Veterinary Services and Dallas Reimer of Minor Brothers Farm Supply covered the topic of ‘High Quality Daily Chores, Walking the Barn, and Individual Pig Treatments’ in a very detailed presentation of some of the necessary activities.

The importance of addressing the needs of each pig begins with seeing the pig. Needs for feed, water, air and health management have to be examined and considered on the daily walk through. They suggest a morning and afternoon walk through with careful observation of individual pigs being the focus of the morning walk through. This, if carried out properly, means the afternoon walk through is less focussed on the individual animal and more of a visual appraisal of the feed, water and ventilation basics.

Upon entry to a barn, it is important to stop and understand what the barn is telling you. Observation skills are critical and involve the use of sight, smell, sound and sensory skills. Is the temperature correct and is the humidity in reasonable range? Are the fans, inlets, outlets and curtains all working? Is there feed in all the feeders as you pass? Is the feed delivery system making unusual sounds or running empty? Smells that are not normal can reflect overheated electrical components, as well as an outbreak of diarrhea.

When looking at pens, many of the same observations should be made. Is there feed in the feeder and the pan? Is it too much or too little? Are the drinkers working? Are there line-ups and fights to get to one drinker? Are the conditions of the pen floor and walls wet/ dry or visible liquid manure present (diarrhoea)? Are the animals resting as they are at any other visit or are they showing lethargic, agitation or distress?

When looking at pigs, learn to focus quickly on individual animals. Move quickly from pig to pig so every pig is observed however briefly. Factors such as posture, location in the pen, respiration rate, attitude and if you really know pigs, facial expression. If a pig is hurting, stressed or sick, it will show. As extreme as these steps are, with practice, an experienced stock person can walk a 1,000-head finishing barn in an hour and have a reasonable idea of the condition of the animals.

In dealing with sickness, the sooner an animal is treated, the greater the chances of successful recovery. The only way to locate sick animals effectively is to go looking for them on a daily basis. The basic guidelines are if there are multiple deaths in one day, three consecutive days of mortality, or increasing amounts of individual treatments, then call someone – the farm manager, system manager or veterinarian.

June 2012

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