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Weaning goes smoother after eating with sow

By October 2, 2023No Comments

Source: Farmhouse - Anne-Marie van der Linde

Floor feeding not optimal

Piglets need to take in enough feed before weaning. Livar chose at the new breeding farm to let piglets eat with the sow.

To get the piglets eating as much as possible before weaning, farm manager Rik Verheijen looked for alternatives to traditional feeding systems. At the breeding farm near Lilbosch Abbey, the sows receive floor feeding. That way, the piglets learn to eat with their mother at an early age.
But floor feeding turns out not to be optimal, experiences Verheijen: "Pigs are not neat eaters. With floor feeding they spread the feed too much through the pen and in the straw. It's okay with fresh feed, but after a few hours they won't eat the chunks from between the straw. Feed is just too expensive for that." Reason to look for another solution for the new breeding farm.

Feeder for sow and piglets

Because the new farrowing house was designed as a farrowing pen, it needed a feeder that both the sow and piglets could use after weaning. Soon the so-called KZB family feeder from Verba came into the picture. The trough of this feeder is extra low so that young, curious piglets can quickly come into contact with solid food. "At around five days old, the first piglet noses go into the trough and when they are two to three weeks old, they really eat along with the sow," Verheijen experiences now that the second round of farrowing sows are in the stable.

Sow smell

The trough under the trough is spacious enough so that a few piglets can eat with the sow at the same time. At first, the piglets mainly take in kibble that the sow drops from the mouth. The smell of the sow makes the feed interesting to nibble on. The placement of the trough against the partition of the piglet nest also contributes to the fact that young piglets soon join their foraging mother.
To ensure that the sow and piglets have the freshest possible feed throughout the day, feeding is done three times a day. In the morning, Verheijen and his staff check the sows for feed intake and adjust the portions if necessary. In the afternoon and evening, feed is dispensed automatically. At 14 days after farrowing, the sows reach peak feed intake and remain at this maximum feed intake for four weeks.

KZB Family Feeder also for after weaning

The feeder is designed so that the piglets continue to use it after weaning. Above the feeder hangs a doser with two feeding lines for sow feed: one for prelacto feed and one for lacto feed. Verheijen chose a doser to feed the sows as precisely as possible. In addition, two more tubes run for piglet feed that end up not single in the Family Feeder, but also in a separate feeder for the piglets. This feeder is located behind the partition in the piglet nest so that the sow cannot reach it. After weaning, the supply of the KZB Family Feeder is switched from sow feed to piglet feed. Unlike the sow feed, the piglet feed goes directly into the feeder. The piglets receive unlimited feed.

The feeder for the piglets is a piglet feeder that Verheijen modified himself so that the feeder is also suitable for feeding older piglets. The piglets first receive milk meal and piglet pellets in their feeder as a start. Verheijen says he is still searching for the right feed: "Moist feed and straw are not a good combination. We are really testing what is good for the piglets and works with our way of housing." After weaning, the doser is closed and the piglet feed goes directly into the family feeder. Piglets are already used to getting something in that feeder and are already well accustomed to the piglet feed. In this way, there are two additional feeding places for the piglets. In the first weeks, the piglet feeder has enough feeding space for two piglets, but after weaning, single one piglet at a time can reach the trough. Together, the three feeding places are sufficient for the flock of growing piglets.

No Growth Check

Because Livar is 3-star Better Life, piglets are not weaned until 42 days of age. The big advantage of not weaning until six weeks is that there is no growth check. "The piglets start drinking less milk by themselves and taking in solid feed. By the time we wean them, they are really ready for full solid feed. An additional advantage is that they stay in the pens for six weeks after that, so there is also no stress moment of moving around weaning," explains the farm manager. Two to three weeks after weaning, the piglet trough closes and they have to make do entirely on the family feeder. "We also switch feed then," Verheijen says. "Then the piglet trough closes. At around eight weeks of age, they quickly get the hang of this switch and are also less bothered by a day of less food. They continue to grow well: when they leave here at 12 weeks, they weigh around 35 kilograms."

KZB Family Feeder sow with piglet in organic stable