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Farrowing Systems: Weekly Or Batch?

30 September 2020

Commercial pig herds in the UK practice either weekly or batch farrowing. Of those batch farrowing, the main systems are two week, three week or five week farrowing.

Batch farrowing can offer health advantages with more buildings occupied on an “all in all out” basis, allowing a more efficient cleaning process and less opportunity for disease to be passed from older pigs to younger ones. This also allows a larger batch of pigs, of similar size, and age to be sold or transferred, as opposed to smaller batches from weekly farrowing. Stockpersons can also concentrate on specific key tasks e.g. serving or farrowing each week. In some situations, batch farrowing can lead to an extremely busy short spell followed by a much easier period (three week batch farrowing). Three and five week batch farrowing fits in readily with the current standard four week weaning period however in the case of two week batch farrowing piglets will be weaned at nearer five weeks of age. Care should be taken to consider farm assurance and welfare legislation.

Batch farrowing does however require extra management and planning to be effective as higher culling rates can occur if, for instance returns fall out with a service group and gilt integration isn’t managed correctly. The peaks and troughs in workload and the fact that high numbers of sows can need attention over a short period also means that labour needs to be highly skilled and flexible.

The different systems will be compared, looking at number of sow groups and when each of the main tasks takes place (weaning, serving and farrowing).

The number of sow groups varies for each system as shown below:

Farrowing SystemWeekly2 Week3 Week5 Week
Number of female groups required211174
Number of groups in:

The workload associated with each system is as follows:

Farrowing SystemWeekly2 Week3 Week5 Week
Week 1Wean, serve & farrowWeanWean10 days, wean serve &farrow
Week 2Wean, serve & farrowServe & farrowServe
25 days easier
Week 3Wean, serve & farrowWeanFarrow
Week 4Wean, serve & farrowServe & FarrowWean
Week 5Wean, serve & farrowWeanServe

Both weekly and batch farrowing have their merits and the system employed depends very much on the individual farm and its circumstances, with the availability of skilled labour and convenience key factors.

George Chalmers,

Piglets suckling sow

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