Farrowing Caretaker Training Using New Technology

David Stender, Swine Field Specialist, Northwest

Problem Statement:

Pig death loss birth to weaning is costly to swine producers, especially some niche producers that farrow in pens in order to differentiate their product.   The ISU record systems have shown that niche producers commonly have 20 to 30% death loss.  Commodity producers lose about 15% of their pigs.  Because of bio-security protocols common to the swine industry and increasing distance between similar operations, sharing technologies, tips and management insight happens less often between different operations.

Programmatic Response: 

Multi-media educational programs were offer to a variety of producers.   The Internet was used for three series of sequential educational workshops.  Each series of workshops were three sessions from noon to 2 pm.  Two of the workshops were for producers that farrow sows in pens, the other Internet workshop was offer to conventional farrowing caretakers that use crates in a modern system.  A fourth day long workshop was a traditional meeting.  There were 37 niche producers log into two Internet based workshops totaling 6 sessions and 12 commodity producers log in for three sessions over the Internet.  Thirty producers attended a face to face all day workshop.   A total of 79 operations were trained as farrowing caretakers.


Learning:  As a result of participating in this activity, 95% of the participants (n=30) reported that they plan to make changes in how they perform their duties in the farrowing barn and how they operate their business.  Eighty-five percent expected to increase their operations economic competitive position.  One comment from a producer: Good session yesterday.   Will $4.50 corn kill the less efficient niche pork production style?  $2.00 dollar corn let us get by with poor production numbers.

One a scale from 1 to 5, Knowledge about When/how to assist sows to farrow increased from 3.7 to 4.2;  Processing piglets, giving injections etc from 4.1 to 4.4;  Identifying/treating health problems from 3.7 to 4.3;  Meeting sow/pig environmental needs from 3.4 to 4.3 and General sow/piglet management from 3.8 to 4.4

The following lists several examples of changes in swine herd management that producers plan to implement as a result of the seminar:

Different feeding methods
Feeding, recordkeeping
Spend more time with pigs
Feed more, lower room temps faster
Heat on piglets/air flow
Learn new practices
I got a lot of ideas here
Sow antibiotics
Set farrowing house at a lower temperature
Do a better job of disinfecting processing/castrating tools and needles
Processing pigs
Learned the technique to save ruptured pigs and spraddle legged pigs
Take information and implement
Continue to work on development of employees
Change my feed intake
Will question (comment from 6500 sow employee)
Many changes

Impact: from 3 month follow-up evaluations included the following comments:

Yes, last years sessions were profitable for my operation; I implemented a change in pig flow trying to batch farrow groups of sows to narrow the range in weaning ages within a group.  I have started to implement some type of zone heat (hoover) for nursing pigs;  all in -all out pig farrowing   --  keeping same size piglets together with nursing sows in small groups;  My herd health has improved because of the health discussion; I have changed the way I feed sows during gestation/lactation;  I have now included heat lamps in huts; I have modified farrowing huts to allow easier safe access;  I am constantly evaluating sow condition and adjusting feed accordingly;  I started supplementing sow ration with alfalfa during lactation;  I am really grateful for these seminars and appreciate the time and effort you folks put into offering them. THANK YOU!

The average financial impact for the small niche farrowers was reported to be $625 from the follow-up survey. 

150 Iowa Pork Industry Center

Page last updated: January 15, 2008
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu