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23rd March 2021

A milk system in the farrowing pen – have you installed yours yet?

Milk systems can deliver up to 30% more kilograms of piglet per farrowing pen per year. This means efficiency improvements between 70 – 100 g in weight gain per day. Are you enjoying the benefits a milk system can bring?

For some farmers, having a milk system in the farrowing pen is an obvious choice whereas for others it seems like a significant, unnecessary investment. It is easy to tell which category you belong to by looking at the size of your piglets at weaning. The bigger your piglets are, the more likely there is a milk system in your farrowing pen.

Today, sows are producing more and more live born piglets as a result of genetic improvements and advances in herd management. However, the piglets tend to be smaller at weaning because the sow is not able to provide enough milk to the increased number of piglets. The net result is the same kilograms of piglet per sow.

"If we use a milk system, this can be changed" explains Bjarne Brixen, Area Sales Manager at AB Neo, Denmark.

The number of teats per sow has not increased with the increasing size of the litter. This means that the farmer either needs to have more nursing sows or use a milk system to deliver the additional milk requirement.

"Nursing sows can, at a later stage, face reproduction problems and typically won’t reach their full genetic potential in the next lactation" - adds Mr. Brixen.

Advantages of milk systems

Many farmers are now using milk systems as their benefits are clear. Producers typically achieve an additional 250 – 300 kg of pig per farrowing pen per year when using a milk system. A realistic and achievable goal to set before installing a milk system is 1.000 kg more pig per year over the entire unit, which would make a significant impact on your bottom line.

"Denmark are champions in delivering live born piglets, but there is still room for further improvement in what we are achieving from our farrowing pens.It is in my experience that, with a milk system in place, you in many cases can raise litters per sow per year by 0.1 due to a general lift in sow performance and reproduction." says Mr. Brixen.

"Also, you will experience an improvement in daily weight gain of between 70 – 100 g per piglet", adds Kristian Juul Volshoj, Technical Manager (pigs) for AB Neo, Denmark.

"With a milk system, you can reduce the time it takes to produce a 30 kg piglet by 8 days!"
Kristian Juul Volshoj

Another advantage is that the sow can wean 1-2 piglets more per farrowing without the use of a nursing sow, which reduces the movement of piglets and therefore eliminates crosscontamination risks.

"Our experience shows that piglets who drink more milk, eat more compound feed at weaning. Customers have reported that compound feed consumption is doubled when piglets are started on a milk system," explains Mr. Juul Volshoj.


Choose the right milk

To get the most out of the milk system, it is essential to choose the right milk product. Sow milk contains the same content of protein as fat.

"Piglets are naturally developed to drink milk at birth, so it is vital that the milk powder is based on milk and not vegetable products such as soy protein or wheat." Mr. Brixen.

A good tip is to choose a milk system with the least waste possible. When there is too much milk waste in the pipes, the new milk is not fresh.

The choice is yours

Is a milk system right for your business? 
If you have an average piglet weaning weight under 7 kg, a milk system is a good choice. If your average piglet weaning weight is over 7 kg, it might be cheaper for you to use compound feed. You could also increase the number of sows and get better usage of your farrowing pens.

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