Pig Growth 101

posted on Saturday, February 13, 2016

Discussions around great pig care always revolve around the big four—air, feed, water and daily observation. Given the right growing environment, nutrition and care, pigs grow from 12 pounds to 280 in less than six months. Sounds easy enough, right? Not so fast. Almost daily the needs of the growing pig change.

“Our teams are constantly adjusting barn temperatures, feeders, water flow, humidity levels, ventilation and stocking density (square foot requirements) to keep them comfortable," said Carl, a finishing supervisor in Western Iowa.

“When pigs are weaned, it’s about a warm barn and doing everything in our power to help them transition from milk to feed,” said Carl. “We keep the barns at 80 degrees or higher, turn on the brooders for supplemental heat, put down mats, sort the pigs by size and use water bars and mat feeding to get them off to a good start.”

In just three short days the pigs are comfortable with the feeders and mat feeding is eliminated, but the mats stay and the brooders remain on to keep the pigs warm.

By week three the pigs are hitting a growth spurt,” said Carl. “Growing pigs produce a lot of heat, so as they get bigger, we have to turn down the heat and increase the air flow. At this point we’re watching close for pigs who are falling behind or getting picked on by their pen mates (ear biting, belly nosing, fighting), and staying committed to sorting those pigs out and into a hospital pen, because pigs can recover quickly if we can just get them a new living space with some extra care.”

By week eight the pigs will weigh 40-50 lbs., which means caretakers are setting their barn temperatures around 72 degrees and working to “unstock” the pens. “When we move weaned pig in, we put 75 to a pen which gives them some extra heat—each other,” explains Carl. “But now they’ve quadrupled in size so we take half of the pigs out of every pen and move them to a completely different farm so they have room to grow.”

“Any time you move pigs to a new environment you have to stay vigilant, making sure they’re adapting to their new surroundings and pen mates, again watching for those fall behinds,” said Carl.

By week 16 the pigs will weigh 120-130 pounds and barn temperatures need to be set down to 68 degrees as the animals are producing more heat as they grow. “The controllers we use allow us to get ventilation, temperature and relative humidity pretty precisely in the barns, and we record and track those records on the Tools site.

As they continue to grow to 280 pounds, many barns allow for gating partitions to be removed to create larger pens, and caretakers continue to adjust feeder settings, increase water flow rates and heighten the water nipples, ensuring the pigs are drinking and eating enough throughout the final stage.

As the top 25 percent of the barn reaches an average weight of 280 pounds the preparations for marketing begins. This includes a prediction of the marketing schedule based on the feed intake of the barn, projected growth rate and inventory of the barn. Once completed, the top 25 percent of the barn is sorted for marketing, opening up space for the remaining inventory which allows for optimal growth rates and feed intakes. The remainder of the barn is sorted and marketed another 3-4 times based on weight estimates and how much they are eating. On average, one of our 2,400 head finishing sites will produce over 625,000 pounds of pork!

From start to finish it requires a lot work, technical expertise and the teamwork of multiple groups to get it done. ‪#‎billionpounds