Case study: Optimise staff time at weaning

Find out about the simple changes a producer made to add value and increase efficiency at weaning.

Back to: Lean management case studies in the pork sector

The problem

The unit: independent farrow-to-finish producer with 1,000 sows.

At weaning, two teams of two staff remove the sows from the farrowing crates and then sort the piglets as they are moved to their new accommodation. The trailer used to take the piglets to the farrowing sheds has a maximum capacity of 150 piglets.

Before a waste walk was carried out, the pens of piglets were emptied into a central passage then sorted into batches of 150 piglets to load onto the trailer.

Only one team of two is needed to load the piglets onto the trailer. This means at any given period, two people are waiting, and it could also result in double-counting and inaccurate numbers of piglets being loaded.

The solution

The passage in the farrowing shed is long enough to be split into three sections in which to sort the piglets into three batches of 150. This would allow one team to load piglets onto the trailer, while the other could continue to sort piglets.

Having sectioned areas also enabled the team to sort piglets by gender and size, and made it easier to identify any light piglets.

The costs

There were no costs to implement this change in practice.

The benefits

Estimated time and cost savings:

  • 1 hour every three weeks (based on two staff waiting to load or sort piglets)
  • 17 hours per year
  • £170 per annum in labour costs (assuming £10 per hour wage)

While the savings are minimal, the real value realised by the farmer came from:

  • Sorting piglets by size leading to consistent groups of finishing pigs
  • Tighter finishing weights, with more pigs meeting the target specification
  • The ability to structure trials and interventions based on gender and size
  • Being able to stream light pigs and manage them separately

This example demonstrates how a change of practice can not only save time and money, but also help find other opportunities to add value and increase efficiency.