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Progressive Pork

January 1999
 
SNAPSHOT OF THREE WEAN-TO-FINISH SYSTEMS


Here's a peek at three operations that have recently made the move to use wean-to-finish facilities.

New Buildings, Large Pens

Illini Grain and Livestock recently expanded its sow herd capacity by converting existing finishing barns into gestation facilities and nurseries into farrowing barns. Original plans at the Butler, IL, operation called for a new nursery and new finishers to handle the herd's expanded production. But when Illini owner-operator John Rundquist heard about the performance and labor advantages of wean-to-finish, his thinking shifted.

 

Perhaps the latest trend for wean-to-finish is large pen size. Producers like John Rundquist, whose building layout is shown here, have turned to large pens to try to enhance the social environment for pigs. * Click to magnify.

Instead of constructing separate nurseries and finishers, Rundquist opted to build two new 1,000-head wean-to-finish barns. He also opted to use large pens, which Rundquist says he hopes will enhance the social environment within the pens. Each barn contains nine 100-head pens and two 50-head pens.

One of the theories of large pen size is that when one or two pigs are separated out of the pen, you won't impact the social order as much as with smaller pens.

The new barns are 40' wide x 200' long, built with total concrete slats and shallow, pull-plug type pits. Ventilation is provided by a combination of tunnel fans and curtains. As shown in the drawing on this page, a three-foot alleyway is situated along one side of the barn, creating 37' deep pens. One Farmweld Jumbo Feeder (five-hole) serves as an island in the center of each pen, with four Farmweld DRIK-0-MAT® Wean-to-finish Water Cups installed near each feeder. Brooder-type infrared heaters supply zone heating to supplement forced-air heaters.

John Rundquist (L) and employee Kenny Bergschneider.

Observations so far: A keen eye is required to inspect pigs in the super deep pens, compared to smaller pens. "You have to be a lot more careful to see all of the pigs, every day," says Rundquist.

No Added Labor

Rich Pork Farm, Deer Creek, IL, wanted to handle more production from its 750-sow farrowing unit without adding more employees. The operation recently completed construction on two new barns, with some built-in flexibility. One barn is a single room facility devoted to total wean-to-finish. The other building is split into two rooms, one for wean-to-finish and one for traditional finishing, which combines well with Rich Pork's existing nurseries. The new buildings were designed with center alleyways and double curtains. Infrared tube heaters are installed in the wean-to-finish rooms. All rooms house 600 pigs, which are divided by side for split-sex feeding.

  Bryan Hoffman

Both barns are 51'wide, which Bryan Hoffman says will allow them to be easily converted in the future. "Eventually they'll be used for gestation barns," says Hoff-man, Rich Pork's farm manager. Equipment includes dry feeders and Farmweld DRIK-0-MAT® Wean-to-finish Water Cups, which were installed to conserve waste water, according to Hoffman. "Less manure means less to haul," he says. "And that's a big plus."

Observations so far: Hoffman says wean-to-finish allows the operation to produce more without overburdening the operation's three full-time employees. Hoffman estimates wean-to-finish saves the operation two days per building per production cycle.

Impressed by simplicity, performance

Doug Schilling, a partner with Eden Stock Farm, Upper Sandusky, OH, is impressed with the simplicity and performance advantages offered by wean-to-finish. Schilling and his father flow about half of their total production through wean-to-finish barns, and half through traditional nurseries and finishers.

They've converted 1,200 finish spaces in four room in naturrally ventilated finishing barns to wean-to-finish by adding comfort mats and brooder-type infrared heaters. They also installed Farmweld DRIK-0-MAT® Wean-to-finish Water Cups after repeatedly seeing trouble with nipple waterers.

"We'd always see some gaunt pigs," says Schilling. "It appeared like they weren't eating, but when we looked a little closer, we found it was that they weren't learning to use the nipple." He says the water cups have worked much better. "Because there is water in the cup, the pigs can find it even if they haven't yet learned to push the nipple."

Eden will also soon flow some of its production into new wean-to-finish facilities at a contract site.

Observations so far: Schilling says he was surprised at how cool you can keep the barns when using infrared heat, and still provide a comfortable, warm zone for baby pigs. "The barn can stay at 65-70 degrees but the pig spaces will be 85-90 degrees," says Schilling.

Schilling also says there's a bit of adjustment required when it comes to managing pig flow, especially if you are using both wean-to-finish and nurseries for one sow unit. Schilling, who has been working with colleagues at the Producers' Livestock Association to develop QuickPig® swine enterprise analysis software, says you've got to get used to planning for two different production cycles — a 7- to 8-week cycle for the nurseries and a 25-week cycle for wean-to-finish. "That can be quite a challenge," he says.

 


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