This is the final week of my internship as a project manager at the MSU swine farm. There has been so much completed over these ten weeks and there is still so much left to accomplish. I’ll be sticking around much longer after the internship to continue my professional work experience and help complete those projects and my ongoing research of piglet development. This has been a fast but fun summer that’s been filled with enough work to make sure I’ve been busy.
This last week we’ve been getting ready to vaccinate piglets to wean on Monday, it’s a small wean group, unfortunately with lots of piglet mortality. We can’t quite figure out what is causing it but sows have not been nursing very well and it may have something to do with the feed. Sows can be very temperamental when it comes to changing feed and we recently have changed over to an alfalfa based feed. This feed still has the traditional corn and soybean, but it now has a green tint from the alfalfa that has been added to it. We’re hoping in the long run this feed will help sows nurse better and grow larger pigs over before they are weaned. However, this is still in development and I will be including part of this in my project paper that’s due next week.
I hope you had a great summer! Good luck out there!
Very slow week this week, so slow in fact that I’ve been catching up on mowing and doing other small tasks around the farm that is considered maintenance and upkeep. Around the back of the farm we have compost bays that we use to dispose of livestock that have died or been euthanized. Recently we decided the sliding door on these bays need replacement and I was given the task of replacing them but with some help. These bays are sometimes used by other farms to dispose of sheep and other smaller livestock, they are not however used for larger livestock such as cattle or horses. We fill these bays with dead livestock and wood shavings that we receive from the MSU pavilion and after a bay is too full to put anymore animals or shavings, we then ‘close’ the bay and wait for everything to break down. We know the composting process is finished when the temperature of the bay goes get around 150 degrees and then drops to about 80 degrees. Once a compost bay is considered finished, we move that compost in with the manure compost in a large compost barn where it then sits until it’s ready to be spread onto the MSU farm fields. That’s about all I have for this week, have a great weekend!
Here is a link that talks about aerobic composting. Enjoy.
This week at the MSU swine farm, we castrated all the new litters and loaded out 110 market hogs on a semi. First was castrating at the beginning of the week, this group was far more organized than the last group because we decided to write down any ruptured males or any boars we decided we want to keep around to see if they could become replacement boars when they get older. In the past we haven’t kept great records of how many intact boars and ruptured boars were kept, so when we wean them we would find far more than we remembered, this is an issue because then we have to castrate boars at an older age which can cause more distress to the pig. However, we can’t castrate any pigs that are ruptured, a rupture is when the intestines break through into the scrotum of the pig, the reason we can’t castrate these pigs is because the intestines could then fall out of the incision and could cause death. These pigs are left alone and are either euthanized or a vet comes in with vet students and they get practice fixing these issues.
Have a good weekend.
It’s another farrowing week this week, and that means I’ve been working 12am to 7 am and sleeping during the day. This is a smaller group of about 34 sows all of which are done and processed. Since this week has been as hot as it is, there hasn’t been much else going on because we move any pigs that need to be moved in the morning while it’s cool, this reducing any stress from the heat and keeps the pigs as happy as they can be. With our sows, there normally aren’t many deformities in piglets but this group we had one pig that was born with 4 front toes on each foot, it’s doing great and expected to survive just like any of the others.
Have a great weekend.
This week has been a weaning week, which means it’s busier than most other weeks. During the weak of weaning, we move all of the piglets from the farrowing rooms into nursery rooms, and depending on the size of the group and whether or not there are piglets on research, it can take an entire day to complete.
Piglets are weaned between 18 and 28 days, depending on the farm’s strategy or guidelines, the MSU swine farm specifically weans between 21 and 25 days and sometimes as long as 28 days depending on the health and size of the pigs. Weaning earlier can be beneficially because then pigs may grow faster after being moved onto solid food but can be inefficient because pigs may not get the full days of nutrients they need from the sow, and vise versa for weaning late.
Our weaning process consists of weaning all the pigs in each pen and recording the weights on the sow’s farrowing card, we do this to determine how well each sow did raising their litters. After weighing the pigs they are then vaccinated for Circovirus and are given a slow release antibiotic to help with the transition over to solid food which can cause stress to piglets. Piglets are moved into pens of 8 divided normally by sex and size into a nursery that is heated to 95 degrees to keep the young pigs warm. This process normally takes all day, before piglets are moved out of the farrowing stalls the sows are moved from the farrowing stalls and into gestation where they await breeding.
Have a great independence day!
This week at the swine farm we set up special pens for a research project that is going on at our second farm unit that we call the ‘metabolism’ unit. In the picture I have posted, you can see that these pens are raised off the floor and are 4×4 pens. They house 2 small pigs per pen and have 2 external feeders on each one. This week we pulled the pens out of our storage barn and placed them into the metabolism unit, they’ve been power washed and the waterers have been set up. After everything has been set up large sheets up plexiglass that are an inch thick are set in grooves at the center of the pens to separate the two pigs that will be held in the pens. Setting up these research pens took most of the week to complete, other than that, we have been busy replacing more curtains that I discussed in last weeks blog. Have a great weekend!
Curtain in need of replacement
This week at the MSU Swine Farm, we have been repairing 20 year old curtain systems. These curtain systems are on the outside of the barn and automatically lower and raise with the temperature. During the winter the curtain are all the way up and shut off, so when spring and summer come around the curtains begin to show their age by breaking or just not working at all and this past winter most of the curtains reached the point of needing immediate repairs. This summer we’ve decided to completely replace all of the curtains around the farm and it is going to take at least another month to fully replace everything. This curtain system is very important because it allows for proper ventilation during the summer months, proper air flow provides cooler temperatures for the livestock inside. There are large barn fans on one side of each room in the barn and then curtains on the other, when the static air system determines that the room temperature is to high then it will turn the fans on and lower the curtains. Repairing these systems is not easy and requires plenty of patience and man hours, there is a complex mix of cables, pulleys, and rods that all need to be the correct length to work together efficiently. When everything is all done, this ventilation can help provide livestock with the proper ventilation that will prevent stress and overheating which could lead to death.
This week at the MSU swine farm was a slower week than last week. Farrowing is all done and now we are monitoring the piglets and the sows to ensure their health. Each morning sows are fed, after sows are fed we then make sure each sow stands up and begins eating, if the sow(s) won’t get up we evaluate whether the sow is sick or just unwilling to stand up, if it’s determined that the sow is sick, she is then treated, this process happens three times a day. Once the sows are fed and monitored, then a team consisting of a manager and employee will evaluate each litter, watching for fall-back pigs that have not been properly nursing, any pig(s) that are determined ‘fall-back’ pigs, are moved to the ‘milk deck’ which is a system that allows these piglets to consume milk replacer. After each litter of piglets is examined, then all the sows fecal matter is removed from behind each sow and dumped into the manure system, this process is done each morning to ensure piglet survivability and increase the number of pigs weaned. This past week did not have very much going on, normally the week after farrowing is a week of catching up on simple maintenance and routine power washing.
This past week at the MSU Swine Teaching and Research Facility has been ‘Farrowing week’, farrowing is the term used when a sow births piglets. Throughout the week 51 sows have had their litters, the largest litter was 18 piglets and the smallest litter was 3 piglets. This is an undesirably large gap of piglets born alive but it’s unfortunately typical on the MSU farm, the ideal litter size would be between 12-15 piglets per sow.
After the piglets are born, they are given a shot of a slow release antibiotic called ‘Excede’, this helps boost their immune system for the first few hours of their life. After a sow is finished farrowing she is given oxytocin, which is a muscle relaxant, oxytocin is administered in order to help release any placenta or piglets that may be retained. Twelve hours after piglets are born they are processed, processing consists of ear notching for identification, tail docking to prevent tail-biting at an older age, and then given a shot of iron. Since the piglets do not have access to dirt which contains iron, piglets may suffer from iron deficiency, in order to prevent this they are given a .25 ml shot of iron.
This entire week has been surrounded around farrowing, therefore, there has been little else going on. Every morning I have been going into work at 2:00 am to monitor each sow that may have started farrowing in the night. I stay with any sows until they are finished or until the rest of the employees arrive at 7am and take over. Piglets will stay on the sow for 20 to 28 days, afterwords the piglets are weaned off the sow and moved to a nursery room, there, they are fed pelleted feed. Once the sows are finished farrowing, sows and piglets will be monitored to ensure sow recovery and piglet survivability, the goal is to maximize the number of piglets weaned. This has been a very eventful week and the first week after farrowing is just as important to ensure piglet survivability.
After two weeks at my internship with the MSU swine farm, I’ve already been overseeing training of new employees and started to develop a better system for farrowing sows. I’ve worked for the MSU swine farm for a few years but have never had any large responsibilities such as training and writing SOPs or planning out strategies that could potentially improve the farms’ wean average. Now that I am being tasked with helping brainstorm newer ideas that could create an environment for piglets that will help their survivability within their first 21 days, I’ve felt a higher sense of satisfaction.
Timing for my internship couldn’t be better, a new article was just published on a new type of system for farrowing sows that could potentially prevent sows from laying on new born piglets. Lay ons are very common and effect all farrowing facilities. Although this new system could help prevent lay-ons it’s already very controversial and has been creating plenty of talk throughout the pork industry regarding it’s use and effectiveness. To give a basic explanation, when a sow lays on a piglet, the piglet’s squeal triggers a small electric shock through a ‘saddle’ that the sow is wearing, causing her discomfort and hopefully causing her to stand up. What makes this so controversial is the use of the electricity, since electricity has mostly been outlawed for use in the swine industry. I have attached the article if anyone is interested in more information. These first couple weeks have been smooth going, however the next month will be faster paced, and we’ll have over 400 new piglets in the next couple weeks.
href=”http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/22/technology/startups/piglet-crushing-prevention-swinetech/index.html”>New Swine Technology