Not just anybody can design a hog barn. Or at least not just anybody can design a hog barn well. Each barn must be thought out and strategically planned with all parties involved in designing, building, and operating the barn.
The Pig Has to Come First
At The New Standard Group, it is our fundamental belief that each barn should be designed with the needs of the hogs in mind. Pigs are social, curious, and habitual animals. Each and every hog barn should be designed with that in mind. No matter the specific type of barn, whether group sow housing, gilt development, nursery or finishing, the plans should take into account how the design can be best optimized to help pigs stay happy and healthy. Happy pigs are healthy pigs and healthy pigs have less stress which leads to better production.
It is also important to have employees who want your pigs to be happy and healthy. Caring for pigs is not always easy, and it is important to train your employees to care for the pigs properly. If your employees don't care about the pigs, they won't care for the pigs. While there can often be an urge to design a barn with the needs of yourself or your employees in mind, it is crucial to design a barn for the pigs and the people together.
Pigs Can Sometimes be Aggressive... Don't Let Them Be.
It's no secret that hogs can sometimes be an aggressive animal if they don't like certain situations. The key to having a herd with as little aggression as possible is—you guessed it—design. Sow aggression is often related to either feeding fights or fights to determine dominance. Designing a barn with plenty of space is an easy fix that can dramatically help stop those fights.
Another way to help is by separating your sows by parity and size. Pigs generally won't pick on pigs that are bigger or equal in size. If all the sows are the same size, they won't want to pick unnecessary fights. In addition, just like humans, sows go through different stages of life. A gilt is going to be more immature than a pig who has had several litters of piglets. If your parent moves in with you, you are going to give them their own space rather than putting them in the same room as your teenage son.
Feed Stations Have to be Smarter Than the Sows
Feed stations are one of the most difficult things to get right when designing a hog barn. Research shows that Electronic Sow Feeding is the best option... if designed properly. A properly designed ESF barn can lead to increased hog production, less wasted feed, and animal welfare benefits.
If you want an ESF to be efficient, you must ensure you train the animals so they are comfortable using the feeders, and make sure it is designed in a way that only one sow can enter at a time so dominant sows don't scare the more timid sows away. You also must make sure your pen design promotes each sow to enter and exit without a traffic jam. Another extremely important key is to avoid overstocking the station.
Maybe most important of all is having a staff that knows how to run the system so unnecessary problems don't arise. And while we know certain things that should be used in the design of ESF barns, we also know many things that should be avoided when designing your electronic sow feeder. If (and only if), your ESF layout is designed correctly, it can make your life a lot easier from feeding, to vaccines, tracking each specific sow, and more!