Livestock farming

Interpret pig signals correctly

In livestock sheds, there are many indicators which show when there is a need for optimisation. Regular animal observation provides important information.

Maximum feed conversion and good slaughter values coupled with feed containing greatly reduced nitrogen and phosphorus levels are a priority in pig fattening. To make such a combination successful, it is crucial to know all the important control points and act with foresight.

Animal observation as a permanent work process

You should take your time and focus on checking only if you wish to see as many signs as possible. Sufficient light (200 lux) makes sure you can see everything clearly. If you wish to improve, you need to observe carefully and draw the right conclusions from your observations. You can use the information you have gathered to take appropriate pro-active action. Ideally, animal observation should form a permanent part of the work routine on farms.

Bring about change

You should not always follow the same routine when checking on animals. Variations in the check sequence and time will help you to recognise changes more easily. It is important to pay special attention to risk groups, such as preparatory feeding animals, when making your visit.

Put yourself in the animals’ position

You must not only observe the entire group but also every individual animal separately. As a pig farmer, you must climb into the pen to check everything from the animals’ viewpoint, such as the shed air. There are always more ideas for improvement when you share information. It is thus recommended to involve a vet and production consultant in your checks.

Good start for piglets

When the fattening period starts, you need to focus on the quality of the purchased piglets and the initial conditions in the shed. Evaluations from the last fattening period and information about weight and genetic fundamentals can help you give piglets an optimum start. As a general rule, close cooperation and coordination are essential between the piglet producer and the pig fattener.

Observe fattening pigs while they eat

The actual fattening phase will start once ideal start conditions have been established. Consistency and average figures play a key role during the check. You should record production data while carrying out your pig observation. You can analyse performance to an optimal extent with the help of a reference group. Feeding time is also an ideal time to observe pigs more closely. This might be late afternoon, for example, when animals ingest a great deal of feed. You will soon spot problem animals. They may become evident if the animals compete for food. Important control points include checking if feed intake increases in line with the target feed curve and whether all pigs have a full stomach and grow at the same rate. A high, uniform feed intake is one of the key requirements to ensure pigs remain calm.

Shed climate as an indicator of restlessness

When making a shed inspection, you not only need to check feed and water intake but also the shed climate. Common causes for agitated behaviour are draughts and excessive exposure to harmful gases.

Ultimately, detecting signals from pigs and reading them correctly is key.

Ten key signals

1. The pig doesn’t look at you.
2. Separate, slow movement
3. Lying behaviour
4. Bent back
5. Abnormal standing posture
6. Abnormal noises
7. Dog-sitting position
8. Empty stomachs
9. Restlessness, aggression, injury
10. Cloudy eyes