Precision process to Farrowing Success
Tomahawk 404M 505M 505XLM
Sows in the ‘closed herd’ are housed in outdoor arcs bedded with straw, with an adjacent free roaming area. They are moved to the huts 1 week prior to farrowing, and remain there for 4 weeks after farrowing. This environment sets Paul in good stead for the ‘Red Tractor’ accreditation that he carries, and is required by processing group BQP who sell Pauls pigs into the Waitrose supply chain.
Paul’s aim is to be as green as possible, both environmentally, and in providing a rearing area with grass to fulfil one of the pigs natural tendencies to spend time grazing. In addition this offers good management of soil erosion.
In January 2012 sows on the unit were achieving 22.3 piglets/yr. Through a number of initiatives to improve animal comfort, such as insulation of the huts, Paul was able to improve this way above industry average to 25.0 piglets/yr. The next area of focus was to reduce piglet mortality due to smothering by the sow. Paul decided to investigate use of short straw, he says ‘it is not about straw or labour savings, it is all about the pigs welfare.’
By finely milling straw using a Teagle Tomahawk 505XLM supplied through Suffolk Agri-Centre Paul found that the sow arriving in the arc is quickly able to create a soft carpet, much more suited to farrowing. He says ‘there are tremendous benefits in bedding farrowing huts with short straw’. Through a combination of husbandry and fertility practises sows are now achieving 27.7 piglets/yr, with ‘the biggest improvement being by farrowing in short straw’. ‘We are seeing an improvement of around 2 piglets/sow/yr through this activity.’
Paul loads 2 x Quadrant bales to the Tomahawk 505XLM straw mill, ‘loading is no problem’. The optional Hydraulic Top Link fitted to the machine for hitching/unhitching and loading bales ‘transforms the job’. In operation the machine is run at 1000rpm with ‘control of hydraulics from the tractor cab being the key to the best output’. To make the operation more efficient Teagle designed a custom made chute with a hydraulic ram that lowers into position to deliver the straw directly into the pig arc which Paul says ‘works very well’.
Paul runs 360 arcs, 180 of which are moved every 3 weeks. Turnaround takes place over 4 days so the operation must be slick and Paul is able to bed down each arc in around 2 minutes to achieve this. A substantial benefit over bedding arcs with long straw is that that the arc does not need to be topped up with fresh straw as the initial bed normally lasts the full 5 weeks of occupancy.
Paul also believes that there is potential for using short straw in dry sow areas as sows tend to get contentment and “gut fill” from eating the milled straw.
And is Paul happy with the machine? ‘The Tomahawk makes the turnaround easier – without the machine we would be completely lost’