For Day One Lead Amanada, It's Much More Than a Job
“When I think about my contribution to our billion pound goal, for me it’s about giving these pigs the best possible care during their first 72 hours of life,” said Amanda, a Day One Lead at Stockdale Sow Farm (Sow 11) located east of Iowa Falls. “There are critical things we do during this time period that makes a huge impact on the health and future success of these pigs. It’s a big responsibility, but I love this work.”
Amanda is one of 76 Day One Leads in our sow system who spends the majority of her time tending to farrowing sows and their newborn litters. “Every 30 minutes I walk the barns to check on the sows,” said Amanda. “I sleeve sows when necessary and then help get the piglets warm and dry by covering them with a powdered drying agent and placing them in a hot box,” explains Amanda.
Hot boxes—special containers placed under a heat lamp that provides the piglets supplemental heat immediately after birth—have additional benefits for the piglets. They are useful when the sow is being especially active and the risk for her laying or sitting on her piglets is high, plus it eliminates competition amongst the piglets which ensures each has an equal opportunity to get colostrum, a practice known as split-suckling.
“We typically keep the pigs in there for an hour,” explains Amanda. “But as soon as we see active piglets, we take them out in hopes that they’ll start suckling and getting colostrum. Once we’ve seen them successfully attach to their mom and suckle, we’ll put a mark on their back.”
Colostrum provides the necessary immunoglobulins to kick-start the pig’s immune system. In addition to immunoglobulins, colostrum contains high levels of protein, energy and vitamin D that are vital to newborn pigs. “Pigs are born with low body-energy stores and without colostrum to protect them from environmental pathogens, newborn pigs are at risk for disease,” says Amanda. “The only immune protection newborn pigs receive comes from the first feeding of colostrum.”
In fact, if there is ever a risk of a piglet not getting colostrum, the farm employees will often utilize a practice known as cross-fostering to ensure every piglet gets adequate nutrients. “If we have a sow with 18 piglets and another sow with 8, it’s a good opportunity to cross-foster,” said Amanda. “Since the sow only has 14 teats, we would take some pigs from the larger litter and put them with the other, smaller litter to ensure that competition is minimal.”
With a goal of 2,366 pigs weaned from Sow 11 each week, Amanda and her fellow farrowing team members have to work efficiency yet maintain a high level of care and attention to detail every day.
And for Amanda, this is much more than a job. “I can honestly say at first I didn’t think this job was a natural fit for me, but I really love what I do,” said Amanda. “And when I’m not at work, I find myself thinking about the animals, especially in the evenings. I am always excited to get in the next morning and to get back into the farrowing rooms.” #billionpounds