DAERA Notes: Pigs


Sow mixing pen

Irrespective of age pigs fight when mixed – it is a natural reaction to determine who is boss! As mixing pigs on farms is unavoidable what can you do to reduce the stress associated with it? An option for weaned sows is to wean them into a mixing pen. The photograph below shows a mixing pen on a local farm. On this farm the sows are weaned into the deep (30cm) straw bedded pen on a Wednesday evening and remain there until Saturday morning, before being moved to free access cubicles for service on Monday and Tuesday. On other farms the sows stay in the mixing pen until they are moved to the service area. You can also see from the photograph there is step up to a slatted area where the sows are fed ad lib wet fed. Despite the deep bed of straw very little ends up on the slats, and to date there have been no problems with the straw blocking the slats.

Farmers that use straw bedded mixing pens for weaned sows tell me the sows are much more settled and there is virtually no fighting, not only at weaning but also later when they are moved to the service area and loose pens post-service.

Vermin control

Since the introduction of new and revised Quality Assurance standards last October I have used the management notes to let you know about some of the changes. In this month’s notes the focus is vermin control. Although the vermin control standards have been tightened and more records are required it does mean you can buy professional rodenticides without having to do a training course.

The main points of the vermin control standards are:

Consider non-chemical methods of control, for example traps before using bait.

If using traps check them regularly and set where they cannot be accessed by non-target animals.

Avoid a build-up of vegetation that may harbour vermin around the farm.

Only use baits where evidence shows they are being continuously effective.

Dispose of dead rodents correctly, for example in the dead skip or incinerator.

At the end of the treatment dispose of baits as per manufacturer’s instructions.

Records required include:

A bait plan showing bait points, bait used and bait point inspection and replenishment dates. The plan has to be kept for two years.

Site surveys showing date of inspection, locations inspected, findings, for example level of infestation, actions required and date completed.

Environmental risk assessments indicating methods of control, details of non-target species, steps taken to prevent exposure of wildlife/pets and disposal of dead rodents.

Templates for the above records can be found on the Red Tractor website at https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/tools-and-library/templates.

On a final note.....

I was talking to a specialist pig vet recently and he was telling me that he has seen an increase in erysipelas this winter, especially in growing pigs. On some farms this has been due to vaccination not being carried out properly, whereas on other farms there was no explanation for the outbreak.

As well as seeing the classical ‘diamonds’ we are all familiar with, the vet is also seeing sudden deaths on farms and an increase in arthritis. The arthritis causes lameness and more pigs are partially or fully condemned at the factory.

If you suspect erysipelas in your pigs, contact your vet immediately as an outbreak can have serious consequences.