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Hospital Pens - Objections and Possible Solutions

Recently I discussed how hospital pens were frequently overcrowded, and to compound the error are usually sited in a spare pen right next to the healthy pigs. Almost universally the excuse is "But we haven't enough spare room anywhere else!". Very often I find on touring the farm, that with a little bit of thought and imagination - you have.

Recently I discussed how hospital pens were frequently overcrowded , and to compound the error are usually sited in a spare pen right next to the healthy pigs. Almost universally the excuse is "But we haven't enough spare room anywhere else!". Very often I find on touring the farm, that with a little bit of thought and imagination - you have.
Faced with what seems at first to be an impasse, I make a nuisance of myself by saying "Come, let's have a look around and see what you might be able to do - getting sick animals well away from the healthy part of the herd is so important".
I tour the whole farm, firstly looking for unused rooms and areas inside buildings. It is surprising what another pair of eyes can suggest from many tours I've done of this kind. My experience has been that about a third extra `away-from-it-all` accommodation can be designed in-house. Usually it is not space or disturbance which is the stumbling-block but drainage - it is important to get this right. On most farms this still leaves two thirds of the hospital quarters unassigned, so I've found.
Now to the outside. On every single farm examined in this way there has been plenty of outside space available. The stumbling-block in this case is not - or not usually - drainage but the mind-set of the manager. The first objection is "We can't possibly afford to build on that space!" "You don't have to", I reply, "A hospital area is not a permanent building, but something which you can construct at leisure and take down quickly".
Straw bales with a tin roof cover on larch poles. Old, discarded and if needs be lightly repaired, outdoor sow huts with runs - the huts do not have to withstand the depredations of bulldozer-like sows , sickly pigs are not aggressive or particularly mischievous.
One of the best solutions of a semi-permanent and successful nature is the plastic tunnel, popular - called `pipehouses - in Japan and `ecoshelters` elsewhere. Those the market gardeners use and while the height of these cheap structures is generally too low for permanent occupation, they are ideal for temporary accommodation if the in-contact lower walls are `armoured`. You do not have to put them on concrete - in fact earth is adequate and better - providing some bedding is used, more generous in winter than summer when sick pigs will burrow into it to keep adequately warm.
The third objection is "But that is a lot of extra work" Yes, it is, but in economic terms, overcrowded hospital pens situated in among healthy pigs will cost you about - or even at least - 9% more income ( I've tried to measure it when I can over the years and it is somewhere in that region). Work out what 9% reduced income is in a year. It could pay for an extra man which many units need anyway as `tail-chasing` due to overwork is a worldwide error these busy days.
Sure - three good objections! All I ask is that you look at spaces on your farm in a new light and let your imagination guide you. Pig farmers are good at this.

Comments please!

One comment

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    blonde

    Eco Shelters are not so great. particularly when they blow down. They let the afternoon sun in on the west end so this end has to be filled in. Then there is the ammonia smell from the faeces that has been sitting in the hay for some time. Most pigs run on a concrete straw based floor. If they are run on a dirt floor the results are a little different, but still the afternoon sun comes in and it has to have a shade put up.

    Hospital pens need not be part of your piggery, I run outside and rarely see a sick pig. Hygiene is a very important part of a piggery and without it you are not in business.

    there is no excuse for a sick pig. Yes some sows have problems at farrowing but generally there whould be minimal problems.

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