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10 Steps To Successful Farrowing

Ross Kiehne, DVM, and staff at the Swine Vet Center in St. Peter, MN, have compiled a top 10 list of successful farrowing tips:

  1. Prepare farrowing rooms.

    • Ensure rooms are warm enough and controls are reset for newly farrowed pigs.

    • Ensure hot boxes are cleaned, dried and disinfected and drying agents are available.

    • Ensure heat lamps are working and adjusted to proper location (at the rear of the crate over the mat) and height to achieve 95°F. temperature on the surface of the mat.

    • Ensure mats are in place.

    • Ensure the tote is ready with farrowing supplies (oxytocin, sleeves, lube, etc.)

    • Ensure the room is quiet.

  2. Make sure sows are ready to farrow.

    • Guarantee correct sow condition (18-19 mm/0.70-0.74 in. backfat).

    • Guarantee vaccinations are done according to the sow farm vaccination schedule.

    • Guarantee sows are fed 4 lb./day starting at Day 112 of gestation.

  3. Evaluate environment daily.

    • Ensure room temperature is 72-75° F.

    • Ensure pigs are laid out (not piling) under heat lamps.

    • Ensure pig comfort by watching and listening to the pigs.

    • Ensure total airflow is not too high (20 cfm/sow) and ventilation is adjusted properly to avoid drafts and chilling pigs.

    • Scrape crates twice daily.

  4. Induce sows with care.

    • Make use of induction to attend farrowings of sows with problem histories.

    • Avoid inducing sows too early (no less than Day 114 of gestation), which can lead to low-viability pigs.

  5. Work to reduce stillbirths.

    • Understand what leads to increased stillbirths and mark animals for the following: high parity, overconditioning, unattended farrowings, misuse of oxytocin (overdosing, volume and frequency) and a history of stillbirths.

    • Intervene if the sow has had a stillbirth, has trouble farrowing or has gone more than 20-30 minutes without farrowing a live pig.

    • Realize these could have been profitable pigs.

  6. Warm up and dry off all piglets.

    • Realize pigs are born wet and cold.

    • Use hot boxes and drying powder.

  7. Ensure all pigs receive a good dose of colostrum.

    • Realize all pigs need colostrum.

    • Realize colostrum provides warmth, energy and important antibodies.

    • Observe the piglets in the afternoon after farrowing to make sure all piglets got a good drink. Mark the heads of pigs to make sure they have nursed.

    • Split suckle all litters to make sure piglets get off to a good start.

  8. Minimize transfers.

    • Realize piglets may need to be moved to divide up the number of piglets on a sow without concern for size.

    • Transfer pigs with minimal movement.

    • Don't disrupt litters if you don't have to. Unnecessary disruption leads to lay-ons.

  9. Don't ignore fallbacks or starveouts.

    • Give these pigs attention everyday.

    • Observe all the piglets and identify opportunity animals daily, then provide a better place for those pigs in need.

    • Use empty crates, nurse sows, bump weaning, etc., to meet the needs of compromised pigs.

  10. Evaluate the sow.

    • Make this job easy.

    • Judge whether sows are eating.

    • Empty feeders and provide fresh feed.

    • Check water flow and help first-parity females find water.

    • Determine if sows are passing manure.

    • Evaluate for health concerns such as udder edema or a retained pig.

    • Evaluate whether pigs look good.

    • Determine if all of these areas have been covered. If so, then move on. If not, then provide attention to detail and work to fix the sow. Walk the sow so she will urinate and defecate, which should stimulate appetite.

Animal Identification Conference Set

ID/INFO EXPO 2006, a national conference and trade show devoted to animal identification (ID) and information systems technology has been scheduled for Aug. 22-24 in Kansas City, MO.

The annual conference provides the latest information in animal ID systems. A trade show highlighting a variety of animal ID systems is Aug. 22-23.

On Aug. 22, a pre-conference seminar will outline the basics of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) with species working group reports. An in-depth seminar looks at details of the Agriculture Department’s livestock ID programs. A half-day of technology seminars covers animal ID and traceability from leading developers, suppliers and information managers.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has been invited to give the keynote address Aug. 23. State legislative efforts to implement NAIS will be reviewed. NAIS education and outreach efforts will be discussed, and a panel will debate the pros and cons of NAIS.

The program Aug. 24 will look beyond NAIS to present a complete focus on the practical application of animal ID solutions.

Online registration is open with early registration discounts available if done by June 30. Meeting and housing details can be found at

Animal Welfare Training Launched

Ohio State University (OSU) animal science researchers are launching animal welfare training programs to foster human-animal interaction.

The cognitive behavioral intervention training programs are a result of collaboration between OSU’s Department of Animal Sciences and Australia’s Animal Welfare Science Centre, internationally recognized as a leading research and educational facilitator of animal welfare topics.

“Worldwide animal welfare research on dairy cattle, swine and poultry has clearly shown a relationship between human-animal interaction and animal behavior, animal performance and a quality product,” states Naomi Botheras, an OSU Extension animal welfare program specialist assisting in implementing the state’s training programs. “Everything from the ease of handling the animal, to differences in milk yield, egg production, and growth and reproduction rates, can be impacted by whether a producer exhibits positive or negative behavior toward the animal.”

Positive behavior can increase pig production by 1.6 more piglets/sow/year and increase average daily gain by 5%, says Botheras.

Steve Moeller, an OSU Extension swine specialist, will help launch ProHand Pigs, the state’s program that focuses on stockperson training in the swine industry.

“Traditional animal welfare approaches have been to observe the animal in a specific setting and then adjust or modify the environment to put that animal in a position of what is perceived to be enhanced welfare,” says Moeller. ‘These training programs take it one step further by focusing on the human aspect. The data shows that employees who have the right attitudes and beliefs toward how they handle their animals translate into improved productivity. And we can use better performance and efficiency as a good indicator of the well-being of animals.”

ProHand enhances existing state programs such as the Pork Quality Assurance and Trucker Quality Assurance pork checkoff-funded programs from the National Pork Board.

ProHand Pigs and a similar program for the dairy industry works to improve animal handling and communication between handlers and animals using multimedia tools reinforced by videos, posters, handouts and newsletters.

The programs have a validated track record. In Australia, three out of four participants showed an improvement in attitude and behavior within a month of completing the training, says Botheras.

Keeping Out Hog Cholera

Kansas State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is working to keep out hog cholera or classical swine fever (CSF) as part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NALN).

NALN is a U.S. Department of Agriculture-sponsored network of federal and state resources designed for rapid response to animal health emergencies.

NALN has established a national CSF surveillance program. Kansas is one of 18 states to participate in the program. Participating diagnostic laboratories will receive samples from veterinarians and pork producers.

Selected labs will perform the CSF testing, while veterinarians from Kansas and surrounding states to some degree will send samples (tonsil, nasal swab) from swine suspicious for CSF to the Kansas lab. Sick pigs submitted to the university’s diagnostic lab also will be included in the CSF surveillance program.

Gary Anderson, head of the Kansas lab, says it is important to stay vigilant for diseases like CSF, even though it is not a zoonotic disease that could threaten human health.

If CSF entered the United States, it could cost millions of dollars in swine mortality, loss of swine and pork product exports, and to control and eradicate the disease, he explains.

Severe cases of CSF produce sudden death in young pigs often without prior signs of illness. Acute signs include fever, listlessness, weakness, anorexia and conjunctivitis, tremors and convulsions. Chronic signs include weight loss, hair loss and dermatitis or discoloration of the ears. Subclinical cases usually show no signs of the disease but may still be infectious.

Smithfield Foods is Inducted into Exclusive Environmental Program

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has inducted Gwaltney of Smithfield and Smithfield Transportation Company’s Smithfield Division into an agency program for companies exceeding routine compliance with environmental laws.

The two Smithfield Foods, Inc. subsidiaries are members of the EPA’s Performance Track Program, which includes about 400 U.S. companies. The program offers incentives to companies that go beyond meeting legal requirements in the areas of energy and water usage and conservation, discharges to waterways, air emissions, waste generation and preservation of natural resources.

“We’re very proud of the Gwaltney and Smithfield Transportation employees for this remarkable achievement,” says C. Larry Pope, president and chief operating officer for Smithfield Foods. “We take environmental stewardship very seriously and we give top priority to meeting – and exceeding – our environmental goals at all of our subsidiaries.”

South Dakota Pork Plant to Expand

John Morrell’s Sioux Falls, SD, pork plant is on the verge of starting the largest expansion in the state’s history.

Morrell, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods Inc., is adding a 232,000 sq. ft. addition estimated to cost $100 million.

In early June, site plans for the building were submitted to the city, and plans for completion are slated for October 2007.

The addition will allow the company to expand its deli ham production system, replace its sausage-making facility and add two precooked bacon lines and one topping line.

The Morrell plant employees about 3,200 workers and this expansion will add 200 workers to the nearly century-old plant.

Plans are under review by city engineers, who must approve the plan for utilities.

The Sioux Falls plant will receive about $4 million in state incentives to expand, including a $1 million grant paid over five years from South Dakota’s futures fund, $200,000 in state workforce development training funds and a $1.5 million sales and excise tax refund on purchase of new equipment.

Producers Picked for Leadership Program

Twenty-four U.S. pork producers have been selected for the Pork Leadership Academy, a program sponsored by the pork checkoff to identify and train industry leaders.

“Through the Pork Leadership Academy program, the checkoff is helping build new leaders who will work with both consumers and other producers,” says Dawn Jarolimek, chair of the National Pork Board’s Producer and State Relations Committee and a pork producer from Forest River, ND.

Participants are selected by their individual states and represent different production styles. Producers are trained to be spokespeople who can talk about the accomplishments of the pork industry and communicate one-on-one with producers about issues facing the pork industry.

This year’s participants include: Rachelle Bailey, Trulock, CA; Keith Penry, Parker, CO; Charles Griffin, Camilla, GA; Michael Haag, Emington, IL; Randy Curless, Wabash, IN; Greg Schroeder, LeMars, IA; David Bickett, Utica, KY; Allison Lemoine, Baton Rouge, LA; Erin Ehinger, Holland, MI; Scott Dethlefsen, Fergus Falls, MN; Brad Stevermer, Easton, MN; Chad Hogue, Clinton, MS; Marcus Belshe, Henley, MO; Greg Wortman, Creighton, NE; Jimmy McLamb, Clinton, NC; Tim Stebbins, Englewood, OH; Kurt Good, Denver, PA; Eric Staton, Manning, SC; Darin Larson, Beresford, SD; Christopher Rea, Martin, TN; Rob English, Milford, UT; Mike Ashby, Blacksburg, VA; Jonathon Wyttenbach, Sauk City, WI; and Shawn Shmidl, Albin, WY.

These producers will attend five meetings during their year in the program, each focusing on different issues including a pork checkoff program update.

Employee Management Conference

Top speakers will provide motivation to participants attending an employee management conference June 20 at the Best Western Garden Inn, North Mankato, MN.

Confirmed speakers and their topics include:

  • Sarah Fogelman, Kansas State University, Extension agricultural economist: “Breaking the Turnover Cycle” and “Incentives, Rewards and Compensation.”
  • Bob Milligan, senior consultant with Dairy Strategies and former Cornell University professor of applied economics: “Managing Conflict, Coworkers and Difficult People,” and “Being a Boss to Family, Friends and Other Folks;” and
  • Kit Welchin, Welchin Communication Strategies: “Managing the Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, X-ers and Nexters,” and “Communication Between Men and Women: Men Are from Fleet Farm – Women Are from Nordstrom’s.”

Additional speakers will address becoming a better trainer and executing performance reviews that motivate employees.

Learn more by contacting Trudy Wastweet, Minnesota Pork Board education director, at 800-537-7675 or [email protected] .

State Sets Policy on Antibiotics

Maine is being called the first state in the nation to adopt a state purchasing preference policy that discourages feeding antibiotics to meat-producing animals.

The policy informs meat producers that Maine prefers products from animals that have not been fed subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics.

A new law also calls for further study into the prudent use of antibiotics in Maine animals, based on the notion that antibiotics fed to animals are in the same class as those fed to humans. The assumption is, if those antibiotics become resistant to bacteria, that resistance could be transferred to humans, making it harder to treat infections in people.

Supporters of Maine’s purchasing policy are pressing federal lawmakers in Maine and New Hampshire to support federal legislation addressing the issue.