Strawing up and preventing draughts

Help prevent pig mortality in outdoor systems by strawing up farrowing arcs correctly.

How should I straw up correctly to prevent draughts?

It is more difficult supervise farrowing and observe young piglets in outdoor pig production systems. This is why strawing up farrowing arcs correctly is so important.

Strawing up farrowing arcs correctly can help prevent pre-weaning piglet mortality in outdoor systems by reducing heat loss from the piglets.

On an 800-sow outdoor unit, reducing mortality by 1% is worth around £21,000 (or 43p per pig).

  • Store straw in a clean, dry environment to maintain quality
  • Position arcs on level ground
  • Consider hut direction, bearing in mind the potential for wind chill
  • If the ground is uneven, poor-quality straw can be used to level it out before positioning the arcs. This will also help to reduce draughts and improve drainage
  • Cover any gaps with soil or straw to prevent draughts
  • Use a spray marker to colour the tops of arcs that have holes in to make it easier for you and your staff to identify which arcs need attention
  • Wet straw should be removed to reduce the risk of piglets becoming chilled

Your strawing up routine will change according to weather conditions. If bad weather is expected, increase the straw levels in the arcs.

Little and often is the key for small pigs. When young litters are present, strawing up will be required at weekends in the winter.

Strawing up pre-farrowing

Before farrowing, check whether more straw is needed; this is especially important if strawing up is unlikely to occur at weekends. Provide wheat straw for nest building, barley straw should be avoided at farrowing as the stems are long and stalky and can get wrapped around the piglets.

Providing too much straw too quickly can also cause problems. Young piglets will not have the strength to push through large amounts of straw to reach the teats. They could also get stuck underneath it; this puts piglets at greater risk of being laid on by the sow.

Place the wads of straw on the ground before the arc is tipped back over as this will save time and effort

Strawing up 1–48 hours post-farrowing

Leave bedding alone during the first 48 hours post-farrowing. Any disruption of the bed/nest can break the newly established feeding pattern between sow and piglets. Consider the amount of liquid produced during farrowing and its contribution to dampening the straw.

If there is a step in and out of the arc, place some straw in the fender area to make a temporary ramp, therefore, if piglets fall out of the arc, they will then be able to climb back in.

Strawing up during the first two weeks post-farrowing

If you check piglets/beds while the sow is feeding, remember that the piglets’ greatest heat source has just left the arc. The amount of time sows spend in the arc determines how much straw is needed. Sows that spend a long time out of the arc will not be providing heat to the piglets, so more straw will be needed for warmth. Sows which only leave the arc to feed and drink will need less straw as piglets will gain heat from the sow for most of the day.

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