Opened in 2016, the Teagasc pig and research facility is a 200-sow integrated unit with 2,700 animals on site.
It functions both as a research facility and a fully functioning commercial unit.
As such, at times the productive performance will be reduced at the cost of the research work carried out, however, it is still of huge interest and benefit to the pig industry to be aware of and learn from the management systems used and to be updated on herd performance figures.
How the farm works
The farm works in a three week batch system and the current genetics are PIC Hermitage LW/LR F1s X Topigs Norsvin Tempo terminal line.
Our sow herd replacement rate for 2020 was 42% and for this year, we are on track to maintain a 45% replacement rate
Replacement gilts are sourced externally as producing our own would limit the available herd for research purposes significantly.
Our sow herd replacement rate for 2020 was 42% and for this year, we are on track to maintain a 45% replacement rate.
This is an area we have put significant focus into over the last 18 months, as our existing herd parity distribution profile had been affected by research previously carried out in the facility.
Within the farm, we rely on the correct recording and inputting of data, especially relating to herd performance factors. This plays a vital role for us as one of the decision making tools we have at our disposal around herd management and structure.
As mentioned previously, we adopted a three-week production schedule when we opened the facility. Essentially, what this means for us is that we carry out the task of farrowing sows, weaning piglets or mating (serving) sows on their own dedicated week. This allows us to dedicate more time and resources to each task and creates greater labour efficiency within the facility.
From a research point of view and coordinating the work of our post-graduate students, it allows us to schedule work out more concisely and is more effective from an experimental standpoint.
Certainly, any unit with less than 500 sows should really consider a type of batch production system and how it might work in their own facility, if they have not previously done so.
Our dry sow accommodation is comprised of one dynamic group of sows having access to two Electronic Sow Feeding (ESF) stations. Our first parity gilts are housed on a separate ESF station adjoining the main herd.
Animals are drafted from the herd via the ESFs for routine husbandry work, vaccinations and before farrowing, approximately one week before their mean due dates. Our farrowing accommodation comprises 56 conventional type places, with six additional loose farrowing crates.
Our typical lactation length is 27 days and we are currently weaning piglets at 8.3kg
As of August this year, we have installed an automatic milk feeding system in 28 of our farrowing places.
This allows us greater flexibility in the management of litters, both from a production and research stand point. Our typical lactation length is 27 days and we are currently weaning piglets at 8.3kg. When research protocols permit, we wean all our piglets as intact litters. The size and layout of our weaner rooms lend themselves nicely towards this activity. These pigs then remain as a litter all the way through the production stages.
The majority of our herd here at Moorepark are fed on wet dry feeders. Approximately 20% of our finishing herd are fed on a liquid feed system.
Our average farrowing rate for 2020 was 91% and year to-date, we are at the same level, if maybe marginally better. We are hoping to finish out the year at 92%.
We have seen a big increase in the number of pigs born live per sow over the last number of years.
To put this in context, the number of live born pigs per litter for 2018 was 14.1, 15.1 for 2020 and so far this year, we are on track for 16 pigs per sow born live.
This equates to an increase in herd size and consequential number of pigs sold of between 10-12%, or one entire production batch of pigs more (330) per annum.
With finisher pigs, our sales performance target is to achieve at least 2,500kg of pigmeat sold per sow per year
This increase in genetic gain and performance is then further improved by the consistently high farrowing rates. For 2020, we achieved 2.44 litters per sow per year and 2021 is on track to be marginally better.
With finisher pigs, our sales performance target is to achieve at least 2,500kg of pigmeat sold per sow per year. Our main metrics for performance here are average daily gain (ADG) and feed conversion ratio (FCR).
Table 1 summarises some of the performance levels reached throughout various research work in Moorepark on both feed system types.
For more information on our production methods, make sure to tune into the Teagasc Virtual Pig Week webinar on Tuesday 19 October.
Tomás Ryan (farm manager) and Aisling Holmes (research technician) will focus on some of the factors of sow performance within the facility and demonstrate how accurate record keeping and analysis can support pig producers greatly in decision making within their own herds.