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New Perspective on Handling Sow Feedback


New Standard Staff

New Perspective on Handling Sow Feedback

Vaccines might be a hot topic in society today, but one thing that isn’t debatable is that if you put weakened viruses into a body, that body’s immune system learns about the pathogen and creates antibodies to fight back. Much in the same way, giving sows refined biological feedback helps her develop antibodies that she can then pass on to her piglets, hopefully giving them a much better chance at fighting off those same diseases.

There are various schools of thought on how feedback should be managed. We recently gained new perspective in this area and wanted to pass on our discoveries.


Handling Sow Feedback When Germs Are Inevitable

The headline says it all: germs are inevitable; but it is still important to create a plan for how to deal with them. Because pathogens are constantly evolving, it is extremely important to find ways to continually refresh your sows' immune systems.

The best way to do this is feedback, or “controlled antigen oral exposure”. For years, feedback consisted mainly of using piglet’s manure. However, in recent years, manure has proven less reliable. Instead, piglet manure is being combined with the intestines of deceased and laid-on piglets; and the use of this blended substance on gestating sows has shown great reduction in fatal piglet diseases such as rotavirus and E. coli.

Giving sows feedback while they are gestating is smart, but it isn't always pleasant.


So, What Are the Usual Sow Feedback Application Options? 

Most feedback starts with intestines, manure (scat), and some kind of blender. It gets mixed up into a runny, liquid mixture; and from there farmers have a few options: 

  • Feedback “popsicles”, which are frozen blocks of the mixture given to sows to lick as they melt. This is a popular option for large pen ESF, but it is hard to ensure that all sows are partaking.

  • Pouring the feedback on top of regular feed. Most sows don’t seem to mind this, but this option is really not feasible with electronic feeders.

  • Put the mixture into a sprayer which is then used to spray the snouts of sows that are due to farrow in a few weeks. Several producers we know use this method and then flag the sows that are due for treatment using paint. 

Is There a Better Way to Apply Feedback?

While all of these options are able to be applied, at the World Pork Expo, there was a great discussion about feedback that led us to some interesting conclusions. Steve Horton with Thomas Livestock mentioned how one of his barn managers retrofitted a Nedap ESF automatic paint sprayer to hold feedback and then used the existing programming within Velos (Nedap's companion ESF software) to flag sows when they were ready for feedback and automatically spray them in the snout as they exited the feeders.

This method makes the system work smarter for producers, which is something we love! We were intrigued by the ingenuity and thought we could tweak his idea to make the process easier, and more accessible to other producers who are also using the Nedap system.

Ever wish you could get a group of group sow housing experts together to answer all your questions? We did that. Watch the video.

Product Development

After WPX we started the process of creating a unit to work alongside the Nedap sprayer; something specifically designed to work with feedback, that can use some of the existing Nedap technology in a way that is easy-to-install and operate.

We’ve been through many test runs and are extremely close to having a working prototype, and our hope is that this hardware will make the nasty job of working with feedback a bit easier leading to happier and healthier sows and piglets. Check out this video on our design process for more information!



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