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Batch farrowing makes a comeback on small- to medium-sized sow farms

The practice of farrowing sows in groups and not continuously is making a reappearance as small- to medium-sized sow farms seek ways to stay competitive, reports Paul Yeske, DVM, veterinarian with Swine Vet Center.

Yeske has seen many farms under 2,500 sows, and a few larger ones, switch to batch farrowing so they can wean enough pigs in a group to fill a large grow-finish facility. It really depends on what downstream flow looks like.

“It allows these farms to act like bigger farms and be able to run a site all-in, all-out and be reasonably sized,” he added.

Back to batch farrowing

Batch farrowing historically was popular when Yeske started his career.

“The trouble with batches is they fell apart because we didn’t have good control of the reproductive cycle of the gilts,” he said. “It took a lot of gilts and a lot of inventory to make sure you kept your batches full. When batches didn’t stay full…the breeding windows opened, and all of a sudden, you’re continuous farrowing.

“Now we have some tools that allow us to synchronize the gilts, and we can get them into the breeding window and…keep the groups very tight,” Yeske said.

Health benefits

The ability to break disease cycles with batch farrowing versus continuous flow offers attractive health benefits.

“You get the opportunity to have the farrowing house completely empty, and for some pathogens, it gives us the breaks we need,” Yeske said.

“Some of these disease cycles break down faster, and it helps to improve the health status, particularly in the wean-to-finish pigs,” he added. “Granted, the wean-to-finish is the motivation, but having these pathogens under control also benefits the sow herd.”

Improved wean-to-finish performance of batch-farrowed pigs makes them attractive to conventional-sized finishing sites. It makes the potential to not have to commingle flow or have multiple age groups on the same site.

The drawbacks

The downside to batch farrowing is a lot of the work falls within a 10-day timeframe, while continuous flow spreads the farrowing work over 4 weeks.

“For the people on the farrowing side, batch farrowing isn’t necessarily friendly,” Yeske said. “It makes it more of a challenge to manage the surges of work. One advantage, though, is that you do get the opportunity to specialize skills in these times and only concentrate on one activity at a time. This allows for better focus than having to balance multiple tasks at once.

“But from the wean-to-finishing side, you do get a single-source, good number of pigs. And as you go into [this], you need to think about it based upon the wean-to-finish performance,” he added.


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Does batch farrowing have a place on your farm? Paul Yeske, DVM, of the Swine Vet Center describes its comeback.

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Posted on April 22, 2020

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  • Johnson: Batch farrowing shows benefits

    Disease challenges eat into time and profits, and are all too common on US pig farms. That is one reason some producers are switching to batch farrowing as a way to break the disease cycle.

  • How to minimize summer’s impact on sow fertility

    Sow reproductive performance drops off in the summer, and this year will be no different. To minimize seasonal infertility issues, Paul Yeske, DVM, Swine Vet Center, recommends producers take steps to keep November and December farrowing numbers up.

  • When swine medicine crossed over to human medicine

    The tools used countless times to eradicate disease in sow herds and on hog farms became the tools to help pork packing plants reopen last spring after shutting down due to COVID-19.

  • One year later: How the US pork industry dealt with the COVID-19 crisis

    The pork industry entered one of its darkest periods in spring 2020 when COVID-19 forced the shutdown of several plants. Paul Yeske, DVM, helped hog producers in his area work through the closures.

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