A fourth series of Feet First seminars, organised by Zinpro Performance Minerals, was held last week in the North of Spain. Attention was given to sow longevity at a large Mexican breeding farm. Other themes discussed included lameness, heat stress and welfare.
Tom Karkutt, director of production at Carrolls Farms, Mexico, explained at the meetings in Vic and Casteldefells, at the end of last week, the results of a two-year programme to increase longevity of 65,000 sows.
Attention to lameness problems on the farm, e.g. by performing claw trimming and the improvement of trace minerals in feed, led to a substantial reduction of lameness related culling. In total, at the end of the production cycle, over three years benefits are estimated to be US$5.7 million.
Other speakers included Dr Lance Baumgard, associate professor at Iowa State University, United States, who zoomed in on the theme of heat stress in pigs. He said that reduced body weight gain is the result of a reduced feed intake. On top of that, tissue growth is altered as well.
Group housing Two speakers introduced the situation of group housing of sows in Europe. Hans Aae, head of nutrition at animal nutrition company Vitfoss, spoke about Danish experiences. In his view, sows can be kept in crates until four weeks after mating, then a system of Electronic Sow Feeding or free access stalls would do. He spoke of bedding in lying areas and slatted floors in dunging areas.
Marrina Schuttert, from the Veterinary Centre Someren, the Netherlands, then talked about the situation in the Netherlands and said that by now 77% of Dutch sow breeders have converted (representing 71% of all sows).
In total, 34% used free access stalls, 32% ESF with concrete flooring and 15% ESF with straw bedding. She advised breeders to take time for the conversion to group housing, for both the breeders and the sows to get used to it.