optimise the weaning unit for high productivity

Published: 2020-08-25

Weaning units are often the bottleneck when efficiency is on the increase within the sow unit. What’s more, not many new buildings or extensions have been erected in recent years. So what can be done within existing facilities? During our herd visits, we often find that little attention is paid in weaning units to the availability of feed and water, which is reflected on the bottom line.

Feed dispensers and availability of water

We often find that feed dispensers are incorrectly adjusted – or not opened up enough. There may also be some that cannot be adjusted properly. Problems in the form of insufficient feeding points and availability of water are also common.

When the objective is a feed strength of 0.9 FUsv/pig/day from weaning to 30 kg, the following recommendations for water and feeding points make a lot of sense:

Number of feeding points: Max. 25 pigs on each side of a tube feeder/dispenser
A water bowl can service 15 pigs, while a water valve can service 10

We recommend min. 2 valves per pen, with output of min. 2 litre/minute. Remember that two water bowls can give problems, as the pigs often make one of them unserviceable. Use a water valve instead, as a supplement to a bowl/valve.

If significantly more pigs are concurrently produced than the weaning unit is dimensioned for, adapting the pens to be able to handle the actual number of pigs in them is essential. 

Feed strength quickly reveals whether the correct strategy has been chosen for feed dispensers and their adjustment. If a feed strength of 0.9 FUsv/day is achieved, the pigs will usually put on about 500 grams per day. 

This should be the key objective in the weaning section!

adjusting a feed dispenser

When feed dispensers are fully opened up to max. strength, it’s worth checking whether they need an overhaul or replacement as soon as possible, as it will not be possible to adjust them fully. Switching them to washing setting is not the answer, as this often locks the feeder, making it harder for the pigs to get the feed out.

Fully open feeders for the first 1-3 weeks are perfectly normal, followed by slowly closing them again in line with the pigs getting bigger and better able to activate them.

Financial gain

Here’s an example of the financial value of increasing the feed strength from 0.8 to 0.9 FUsv/pig/day:

If feed strength is increased to 0.9, it will mean around DKK 24 per pig (DK prices week 14). The gain from increased growth is greatest and make up DKK 19 out of the DKK 24 per pig. Feed consumption accounts for DKK 5 per pig.

Different feed strengths are shown in the table above, and the productivity often achieved in relation to daily gain and feed consumption. If working with feed strength of 0.9 FUsv/day, and feed consumption of over 1.8 FUsv, it can mean that there is feed waste. This should of course be minimised as much as possible, e.g. by putting a metal or plastic sheet under the dispenser.

Choice of feed dispenser  

Which is the best feed dispenser to choose if you don’t have enough, they need an overhaul or replacement? That’s not something we can judge, but would like to mention that Skiold’s Maximat works really well. Go for one with a polyethylene bottom, as they ensure good separation between feed and water. A cheaper version with a stainless steel bottom is also available, but they are harder to adjust, as feed and water can easily be mixed. 

Contact us, if you have challenges reaching 0.9 FUsv/pig/day in feed strength.

Related articles

Receive our e-newsletter

Get the latest valuable insights when our nutritionists share their knowledge and experience on healthy nutrition for swine and cattle.