A bespoke piglet nursery designed and built by Quality Equipment is saving piglets and increasing profits at one of Rattlerow Farms’ commercial herds
Better pigs and lower mortality. That’s how the manager of a large commercial herd in Suffolk sums up the benefits of a new purpose-built piglet nursery unit.
The successful breeding program means that Whiteland sows are highly productive, with many more pigs being born. James’ figures show an average of 14.58 total born per litter in the past 12 months, with 13.47, 13.68, and 13.63 being born alive in the past 12, six, and three months respectively.
Rattlerow management had seen a nursery kitted out by Quality Equipment (QE) FOR Robin Brice at Countess Wells Farms, near Framlingham. Although it was a converted air-conditioning unit, they were impressed enough to approach the company to make a brand-new bespoke unit specifically for them.
QE designer and director Mark Harding had been working on this idea and produced a portable container-style unit at the company’s Woolpit headquarters. It was delivered in May and the first pigs were put in on June 4th. Measuring 2.7m x 10m, the shell of the nursery is made from highly insulated exterior panels and internally is divided into three rooms each containing two pens holding about 25 piglets apiece, depending on their size. Each room provides about eight square meters of floor area.
A key feature is that each room has its own door and no inter-connecting passages, avoiding any possible cross-contamination and allowing independent cleaning and disinfection.
Each pen is comprehensively kitted out. It has an independent ventilation system, a separate slurry tank, and a plastic slatted floor equipped with thermostatically controlled solid heat pads. Two bowl-type drinkers are provided in each pen, and the most vital piece of equipment of all is a warm-water Transition Feeder.
Developed by QE, this provides freshly mixed gruel on a little-and-often basis, similar to the sow’s own milking pattern. A specialist young piglet diet of crumbs is used for this. In addition, a dry feed hopper is provided in each pen.
Mr Staples batch farrows 80 sows every three weeks. Under the advice of the farm’s vet, after eight to nine days the best four litters are removed from the farrowing house to the nursery – about 26 piglets are put in each pen. The smallest piglets are then taken from the other sows in the farrowing house and fostered onto the four who’ve had their piglets removed; this can be done in stages. Mr Staples says the small pigs benefit from the lack of competition on the sows.
Mr Staples makes the point that the system aids the welfare of the sow and the piglets by reducing her milking requirement and reducing the number of piglets that fail to compete for teats.
The piglets remain in the nursery until the normal weaning time, so their removal is synchronized with the 27-day weaning of the naturally reared litters. They’re taken in their batches to straw-based grower pens where they remain for a further eight weeks. At that stage, they’re as good as – and sometimes bigger than – their contemporaries, and Mr Staples expects their total finishing performance to be at least as good as the others.
Previously, QE’s Transition Feeders had been used in empty farrowing pens and even passageways.
Since the new nursery was installed the total number of piglets weaned has averaged between 12.4 and 12.5 pigs per sow. The nursery cost £34,000 and Mr Staples has calculated that depending on the value placed upon weaners saved – and ignoring the returns on the extra finishing pigs – the financial benefits amount to more than £17,000 annually
Quality Equipment has always prided itself on being a down-to-earth company. This was certainly the case for seven members of staff who got their hands – and everything else – dirty while taking part in the Only The Brave mud obstacle run. The event took place at Elveden Estates, near Thetford on Sunday 2nd April.
The aim was to raise £500 for the company’s favoured charity, the East Anglian Air Ambulance service. Pledges at over £1,000 have more than doubled this sum. A team of seven took part, plus two non-QE staff, with some tackling the five-mile and others braving the ten-mile course with over 40 obstacles!
Due to increased demand for Paneltim by pig farmers, Quality Equipment has extended its storage area by 220m² (2368 sq ft) at its Woolpit, Suffolk, base.
This will enable the company to stock an extra 5,000m² (53,819 sq ft) of the plastic panel, widely used in piggeries, particularly for pen division and gates. It offers substantial benefits in terms of strength and hygiene over many traditional materials.