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Vlemmix weans 35 piglets per sow

5 September 2018

Pig farm Vlemmix from the Dutch town of Heusden weaned 35.1 piglets per sow last year. The farm's manager, Berry van Gerwen, says his sows’ high milk production was the most important success factor.

Berry van Gerwen has been working at Vlemmix's pig farm in Heusden for almost 15 years. In the first years, Berry says he 'didn't get enough milk from the sows'. After he learned about the milk production potential of his sub-breeder's sows, he started experimenting with his animals’ feed. His sub-breeder came into contact with Henk van der Steijn, whose feed produced results that his previous feed didn't: engorgement of sows’ udders resulting in high milk production.

The magic number
Sow farm Vlemmix, located in Heusden in the Netherlands, keeps 1,600 sows. Berry completes the tasks on his farm with the help of his dedicated team. In 2017, they achieved the magic number of 35 weaned piglets per sow, averaging 35.1 weaned piglets annually.

The weaning piglets are housed a few kilometres from the sow farm. Once the piglets weigh approximately 25 kilograms, most of them are sold on the German market. The farm has a stable nearby where the remaining 2,300 piglets are reared as finishers. All sows and weaning piglets are fed dry food in the form of pellets, while the finishers are fed liquid feed.

Sophisticated management of farrowing pens
Berry and his colleagues have a sophisticated system for managing farrowing pens. They start with 15 piglets per sow after birth. Any excess newborn piglets that have had enough colostrum are placed with a sow with three-day-old piglets. ‘This sow's own piglets are placed with the next sow with seven-day-old piglets. Seven-day-old piglets are placed with a sow with 14-day-old piglets. And we put the latter group with a sow with 21-day-old piglets. We then wean the sow's own three-week-old piglets.’

Newborn piglets that do not get enough milk after a few days are placed with a young sow that has a good milk yield. Without these foster mothers, Berry thinks that the farm could wean an average of 14 piglets per litter. He says sows’ high milk production is indispensable in achieving what he does.

Business coaching
Berry is not convinced that milk formula and ‘porridge feeding’ is a solution for low milk production in sows. According to his philosophy, these products must be supplementary to the sow's milk. ‘From day four, piglets are bottle-fed milk formula to aid their growth. Once they're a week old, we feed them oat creep feed. After they've had this for two weeks, the nursery piglets are given weaner pellets in the final week.’

Berry benefits from monthly business coaching. He especially likes the way in which the coaches scrutinize management practices and give him advice. ‘I think a management consultant should be critical and help a company up its game.’

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