This past week I was asked for management items that contract growers should be aware of as we manage for high feed costs going into summer weather. Of course the obvious item is correct feeder adjustment, something that will always be a management concern.
One item that many in the industry don’t consider is management of the sick pen. I’ve told many people that many sick pens that I come across in facilities are really ‘waiting to die’ pens. That is, by the time a producer or grower decides to remove a pig to the sick pen, the proper thing to do for that pig’s welfare would be euthanasia. However, it is hard for many producers who care about their animals to euthanize pigs – they really want pigs to live. In these situations it is best to euthanize the pigs identified in a timely manner rather than to defer their euthanasia because it is too hard to do.
Another term for many sick pens is ‘dust collectors’. These occur in barns where 4-6 pens are left empty at time of pig placement with the idea that disadvantaged pigs, slow pigs, injured pigs, etc. will be removed from pens as the pigs grow to these pens. All too often, these pens end up empty throughout the entire production cycle. This means all pens in the barn are overcrowded by 1-2 pigs per pen. This overcrowding always leads to slower daily gain for the entire unit.
Finally, as I’ve written before, our facilities are often sited where anyone with a camera can peer thru the open curtain. What have you done to be sure your sick pen reflects the best animal care standards you know how to apply?