The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland has issued best-practice pig management tips – for the month of May.

Liz Donnelly, of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), has issued the following guidelines for pig farmers, on the department’s behalf.

Quality Assurance standards

Red Tractor’s review of pig standards has just been completed, and assessment of the new/revised standards will start on October 1 this year.

Guidance on the provision of adequate access to a supply of fresh, clean drinking water for pigs has been revised. From October 1, the standard will include the following:

‘Water requirements are related to the feeding system in operation, that is, dry or combined wet and dry systems. In growing/finishing units, a drinker within a wet and dry feeding system does not constitute a separate water source.’

If you have wet and dry feeders, the nipple drinkers in the feeder will not count as drinkers. In order to comply with the revised standard, you will have to provide separate drinkers.

The number of separate drinkers required will depend on the number of pigs in the pen and the type of drinker.

For ad-lib feeding, the requirement is one nipple drinker per 15 pigs, or one bowl drinker per 30 pigs.

So, for example, a pen of 50 finishing pigs will require four nipple drinkers or two bowl drinkers.

On some units, with wet and dry feeders, extra nipple drinkers or bowls are already provided. However, the existing number may not meet the revised standard. Depending on group size, additional drinkers may be required.

Synchronising gilts

Very often, getting gilts to come on heat is either a ‘feast or famine’; too many come on at the one time, or none come on at all. Synchronisation of oestrus allows a batch of gilts to come on heat when you want them to.

This will help avoid problems arising from serving too many gilts at one time, or not serving enough.

Serving too many gilts creates problems when it comes to farrrowing, with farrowing crate availability. Not serving enough, leads to sows being inseminated again that should have been culled, or that service targets are not met.

With several products on the market for synchronising gilts, the technique should prove successful provided you follow these simple rules:

• Gilts must have been on heat before they are fed the chosen product.
• Each gilt is fed the correct amount for 18 days. Accurate dosing is vital.
• The chosen product is fed the same time each day, plus or minus 15 minutes.

Consider the example of one Co. Down farm, where synchronising gilts helps to ensure the target of 13 services per week is met.

For instance, 10 sows are due for weaning on May 4 – two of which the farmer plans to cull. To meet the target of 13 services, five gilts have to be served.

Therefore, on April 15, the farmer started to dose a batch of five gilts with the synchronising product. On May 2, 18 days later, the product was withdrawn. The expected service date for the eight sows and five gilts is May 8.

By recording this information for a five-week period, the farmer knows exactly how many sows are due each week for culling; how many gilts are required and when to start and stop feeding the synchronising product.

This information could be recorded on computer. However, a simple whiteboard and marker can do the same job.