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Transitioning Piglets

We all know the struggle of weaning pigs, getting them on feed and trying to avoid hiccups along the way. Of course, when getting those day-one shots in, iron dextran injection is at the top of the list. If you have a vaccination protocol, making sure those are done at the appropriate times is important, too. But what do you do when you’re nearing the age of weaning them? Do you start them on pellets or ground feed in the crate? Do you wean to the nursery and then start them on either pellets or ground feed? In talking to customers, friends and other breeders, everyone has their own way of doing things and knows the best fit for their operation.

 

What I like to recommend and how we try to start ours is with pellets in the crate. We use the ESP Phase 2 pellet.We start with sprinkling pellets on the mats we have in the crates around 7-10 days old, when they hit 10 days old we have round stainless steel feeders that attach right to the crate and start by covering the bottom of the pan with pellets and gradually adding more to the pan as we get closer to weaning. We do this so we get them interested in playing with them and nibbling on them, similar to cattle operations that creep feed their calves. If you fill the pan, as many of you have I’m sure have experienced, the pellets end up on the floor or in the pit and wasted. We typically put 1-1.5 bags of pellets through each litter before starting them on ground feed. Some find that because the pigs are curious enough and get into the sow’s feed a little, that starting them right off the bat on ground feed works just fine. Depending on the female and how they are doing in lactation, we do occasionally supplement with milk replacer as well. With switching to the ESP Sow 100 Premix  we are thankful for not having to supplement as much as we have in past years.

 

Once we get them in the nursery we continue the pellets until we get that 1-1.5 bags through them, then we transition them to the nursery ground feed (ESP phase 2 Mixer) that is around 22% protein. In the ESP program the Phase 2 Pellet uses the same base mix as the Phase 2 ground feed, so it makes for a very easy and successful transition without any drastic changes. Keeping the nursery warm and well-ventilated is crucial to keeping those piglets healthy and on the right track! We keep ours right around 75-78 degrees. We typically try to pick a nicer day to move them from the farrowing barn to the nursery so they do not get cold-shocked.

 

Once they have spent their time in the nursery and we get the chip pens set up, they hit the chips. We make sure to get low-dust chips, fill the bottoms of the feeders and equip each pen with heat lamps to help keep them comfortable. We keep them on that same ESP Phase 2 nursery feed, full-feed until sale day. This keeps them looking fresh with that extra “pop” everyone likes to see!

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Farrowing House Environment- Keeping them Comfortable!

As we are getting in to the early stages of farrowing our 2019 show pig crop, sometimes we need a reminder how important the environment for the farrowing house is. Keeping both the sows and the piglets comfortable is one of our top priorities, and because they require different things, can be slightly challenging. Keeping the environment ideal is just as important and matching up matings and the diets they get fed throughout their life!

Keeping the temperature at an ideal spot for both the sows and the piglets is probably the biggest struggle for most people. Piglets like it warmer the first 3 or so days of life, around that 85 degree mark, where sows are most comfortable around 60-65 degrees. To keep both comfortable as best we can, we keep our barn around 68-70 degrees. We do this with both an LB White Heater under the tarped room, and a Radiant Tube heater for the whole building. The Radiant tube heater is one of the best purchases we have ever made for our barn. It allows us to keep the temperature a little lower for the comfort of the sows, while heating the surfaces of the crates to assist the heat lamps in keeping the piglets warm enough. The tube heater also helps keep the barn as a whole from getting too damp, lessening the chance of respiratory problems.

Having heat lamps in those crates is as important as anything for the piglets. We start with the the lamps hanging a little lower and move them up as the pigs grow, never allowing it to be low enough to where they pigs could hit the lamp. We use a biodegradable mat underneath the lamp to aid in blocking any possible draft. We keep the lamps to the back side of the crate so that sow can’t get to it. If they can even reach the cord just the slightest bit, they WILL no doubt tear it down! Making sure all the cords and outlets are in good condition is important as well, safety first!

Watch your pigs, they will tell you how comfortable or uncomfortable they are! The best way to tell the piglets are comfortable in their environment is by how they are laying in the crate. If they are piled on top of each other directly under the heat lamp, we probably need to re-evaluate and find a way to get it warmer for them, if they are sprawled out all over the crate, away from the heat lamp, it is too warm and we need to lower that temperature, we don’t need any getting laid on because it is too warm. The best is to see them laying out of the way, in a group, but in a comfortable group, not in a pile.

For sows, the biggest red flag is their feed intake and milk production, if it is too warm, you will noticed one if not both, we need to keep them eating and milking so we keep the piglets fat and happy. Keeping those feeders clean for the sows is huge as well. If they aren’t cleaning up their feed, evaluate why that might be an issue. Are they not feeling well? Is it too warm? Is it too much feed? If you pay attention to detail daily while feeding it is an easy “tell” to if one is not feeling well or if maybe they are just not up to that level of feed yet. One of the best ways to keep on top of this if there is different people feeding, is just to clean out those feeders periodically or even daily if possible.

Always remember, a clean farrowing barn is a happy farrowing barn! Keeping dust down and having a solid ventilation system is key. If you are stuffy or coughing after being in there, it’s likely bothering them too! Not everyone has the same protocols or practices, you need to do what best suits your program to keep them all happy and healthy!

Best of luck to everyone this farrowing season!

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