Training piglets to grow from the start

Pigs have a lot of potential for growth. In order to live up to that, it’s important to train the animals’ guts virtually straight from birth. Keeping that in mind, an early feeding programme with an automatic dispensing system was installed at Bankers farm, the Netherlands.


Bankers farm is a farrow-to-grow facility near Deurne, the Nether- lands. The farm recently expanded to have a 1,600 sow capacity and almost 7,500 grower pig places. Owner Wilfred Bankers, 46, sells his grower pigs at roughly 26 kg to finishing farms in Bel- gium and Germany. He weans over 35 piglets/sow/year, reaches an average daily gain of around 360 g/day from weaning until 26 kg. Antibiotics are only applied in case of an S. suis infection. In 2008 Mr Bankers took over the farm from his parents, who built a layer farm in 1969 and added pigs after a while. He recently phased out the poultry business and had the new sow facility built in its stead.

erhaps not the most delicious anecdote to start with, but it is a suitable way to start this article. A sow, lying in her lactation crate, rises up as nature calls. Several onlookers see solid droppings slowly

disintegrating as soon as they reach the floor. Roel van der

New farm, new innovations This little anecdote took place inside a brand new addition of Bankers farm, located near Deurne, in the south of the Nether- lands. Owner Wilfried Bankers, aged 46, in 2018 added a new large sow house to his swine farm, offering space to an addi- tional 500 sows to his facility. Mr Bankers didn’t economise on innovations – instead he choose for some luxury in the con- struction, which cost € 1.3 million altogether. He says, “I’ve got another 15 years to work and what counts for me is that me and my staff can work here as pleasantly as possible.” The new pig house therefore is equipped with e.g. dust-reducing light- ing (Freshlight Agri), farrowing feeding equipment (Nedap) and balance floors (Nooyen). Only the genetics part comes from abroad: with its high prolificacy rates, Mr Bankers felt tempted to opt for DanBred sows. Performance figures have soared, for the third year in a row he has achieved more than 35 piglets per sow per year, he says. Good management is one of the secrets, he admits, to make it work with Danish sows. The animals are said to have a reputation of being difficult to manage, but not so on Bankers farm. On the contrary, upon entrance of each pig room, time after time the sows and their offspring are calm and often sleeping.

Training piglets One novelty – related to the manure composition described in the introductory paragraph – cannot be found to its full ex- tent yet at many other farms. The pig nutrition programme Opticare is all about training young piglets, so that they can eat solid feed at an early age. The programme, designed by Dutch nutritionist advisory company Swinco (short for ‘swine nutrition company’), has recently expanded to consist of much more than just being animal nutrition. Essentially, the system combines and improves existing tech- nologies into a programme that should make life easier for producers and pigs alike. Take for example the way piglets

6 ▶ ALL ABOUT FEED | Volume 27, No. 3, 2019

Bruggen is one of them, and the phenomenon must have in- spired him. Suddenly he hops into a neighbouring pen and starts browsing on the floor. Not much later, he gets up, hold- ing very small bits of manure in his hand, different in compo- sition, almost cat like. Proudly he says: “You see, this is what healthy young piglets can produce before weaning. These are of good composition and have a nice black colour. That is an indication that their gut health is very good.”


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