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4 factors to consider when remodeling sow facility

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Consider feeder designs, space requirements, barn management system when remodeling.

Thinking about remodeling your livestock facility?

“Interest is high in remodeling stalled barns and building new group barns,” says Brad Carson, vice president, Nedap Livestock Management, North America. “Management teams recognize the benefits of housing sows in groups and are eager to capitalize on those benefits sooner rather than later.”

Consider these areas to effectively remodel your facility’s system and make it easy to use.

When deciding to remodel your barn, think like a sow.

What keeps her calm, so she can be productive? Minimizing aggression, providing adequate resting areas and eliminating congestion at the feeder entrance are keys to peaceful, productive sows.

“When you choose a barn management system with your sows’ needs in mind, your sows will be productive,” Carson said. 

Evaluate feeder designs

Sows can develop feed-guarding habits if given the chance, so carefully evaluate feeder designs. Can sows interrupt an individual while she eats, even when she is inside the feeder?

What about when she is done? A feeder designed with front exits encourages one-way traffic through pens to eliminate negative interaction. Giving every sow the opportunity to eat without interruption will allow her to maximize productivity.

Sows using forward-exiting feeders are more comfortable exiting both breeding stalls and farrowing stalls. The forward-exit motion is familiar, making exiting from the stalls easier on both the sows and the employees.

Do the sow math

To meet square foot requirements in group pens, you might need to be flexible with your sow math. For example, you might need to change the total number of sows in your barn. Or you might need to develop group sizes slightly different than in a new barn. To find the perfect fit, surround yourself with a team who has experience in all sizes and styles of group sow management.

“Don’t try to force something that works in someone’s new barn to work in your remodeled barn,” Carson said.

Sow strategy during and after the remodel

It’s possible for production to continue during the remodel. The first step is to adjust breeding targets to reduce sow inventory. This gives you room to pull out stalls and begin building new pens. Another strategy is to find an alternative location to house your sows during the remodel.

“Many producers who have remodeled repopulate their new pens with previously stalled sows that adjust quickly to their new environment,” says Carson. “The same sows that were easily excitable in stalls are calm and unafraid of people in their new pens.” 

Source: Nedap Livestock Management

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