THE ROLE AUTOMATIC SOW FEEDERS & WATER PLAYS IN PIG NUTRITION
A pig's nutritional intake will ultimately determine its growth, health, and meat quality. Automatic sow feeders can be a great aid in individual feed intake analysis and monitoring of pregnant sows/gilts in the gestation stage, and an often overlooked important factor of nutrition in pigs is water. Read more about nutritional needs at different stages of a pig's development here.
PIG NUTRITION: GROUP HOUSING AUTOMATIC SOW FEEDERS
In our Genetic Nucleus Unit we use Nedap Livestock Management's Electronic Sow Feeding in our group gestation house. We decided on an ESF system as it is more efficient because it eliminates feed waste and gives us the opportunity to individually manage each sow (through technology) and adjust her feed as required. With the integration between Nedap and Cloudfarms, we are also able to match reproductive performance with body condition and feed management.
Each sow is assigned a specific amount of feed per day according to her parity, gestation period, weight, and body condition. She can then choose when she prefers to eat. Each sow may have different preferences. For example, some only want to eat in the morning and others like to snack a little throughout the day.
As a sow goes through the system, her RFID ear tag is identified, and when finished eating she is weighed and her data is captured. There is a separator at the end of the scale that sorts the sows and can either guide her back to the main group or to a separate smaller group for review, processing, etc.
If the system detects a negative growth curve she is automatically identified for the manager to investigate any possible causes.
The separator is also used to separate the sows/gilts for pregnancy testing, vaccinations, or to sort out those females that need to go to the farrowing houses. Any rules or filters can be set up for selection to improve on-farm management.
A HIDDEN FACTOR IN PIG NUTRITION
One of the important hidden factors in pig nutrition is water! 80% of a piglet’s birth weight is comprised of water weight. This decreases to about 50% of body weight when a pig reaches market weight.
Good water intake stimulates better feed intake and also improves the health of all pigs (for example, eliminating problems like constipation, improving milk for a lactating sow, and improving growth curves for piglets and growers).
Therefore, every aspect of the pigs' pens is planned and set up for optimal water intake to not only make it easy for a pig to drink water but also to limit water wastage.
Piglets are exposed to water nipples already in the farrowing houses so they quickly learn how they work by exploring (as they’re very curious) and seeing their mother use a water nipple. It also ensures they have optimal water intake from an early age.
The position of the water nipple is very important. It should ideally be 5cm above shoulder height. That way the pig needs to lift its head slightly to drink. This aids in better water intake and less water wastage. Nipples for each pen are standarised to be the correct height depending on the average size of the pigs that will occupy the specific pen.
We ensure there are enough water nipples in each pen as well as adding water nipples in some feeders so pigs can mix water with their dry feed. The water pressure is also very important and continuously monitored to ensure all pigs get a good flow of water and an adequate cold temperature.