Batch farrowing vs. Weekly farrowing: What is the best fit for your operation?

The swine producer of today has many choices to make! One of the biggest decisions is to use a batch farrowing system or a weekly farrowing system. Batch farrowing involves synchronizing a large group of females to farrow simultaneously in a very narrow window of time. Within a weekly farrowing system, a small group of females farrows piglets each week, and the groups are staggered. There are pros and cons to each system, yet it is important to remember that producers are never locked into one or the other. Our team at Sioux Nation has worked with producers who have switched back and forth between each system.

Batch farrowing: Pros

• This can be considered an “All in, all out” scenario that offers improved biosecurity and better health for the animals. The ages of the pigs are close, resulting in a nice group for the nursery barn flow.

• More pigs are weaned at the same time, which reduces age variation in piglet at weaning. This also allows the smaller producer to sell large single sources of weaned pigs in the market.

• Farm tasks can be better organized. Everything in the production cycle is spread out over about 21 days from breeding the group just weaned, farrowing the next group, processing piglets, to weaning, and cleaning the farrowing room.

• Planning for the labor necessary during the concentrated weeks of production is easier and this process may result in needing less full-time help and more part-time staff.

• Regular downtime can be found to complete repairs that are necessary for efficient production.

Batch farrowing: Cons

• More sows farrowing at the same time require more crates, or a reduction in the number of sows if facility space is limited.

• The feast or famine of activity dictates limited opportunities for employees to use vacation days.

• Using hormones to synchronize female schedules can increase costs. Establishing the batches requires both thought and time.

• Adding gilts to the groups can be challenging.

• It can be difficult to carry over nurse sows for piglets who need the extra care, as you no longer have the option to hold pigs back an extra week and add them to the next group. Supplemental milk may need to be offered which results in higher costs.

Weekly farrowing: Pros

• There is more flexibility in caring for piglets. Producers are can provide nurse sows to give the extra care required by certain piglets. This gives the pigs a few more days on the sow before weaning and moving on to the nursery.

• Pigs are sold on a more regular basis, resulting in more frequent influxes of dollars for a less restricted cash flow.

• Producers find it easier to scale up and it will not require an excess of equipment to farrow large groups at a time, etc.

• There is more flexibility when synchronizing female reproductive cycles. Females can fall into the next breeding cycle a lot easier than those in a batch system, or females can be weaned a few days earlier to help them meet a group breeding target if needed.

Weekly farrowing: Cons

• All phases of production are happening at the same time in one week. This requires skilled workers in all areas of production.

• The continuous nature of production can result in health challenges in some operations. For example, if a scour breaks out in a farrowing room and continues to spread throughout the farrowing rooms it can be a challenge to get it under control. The ability to move entire groups of pigs out has its advantages.

• There is limited downtime during which repairs and/or maintenance may be performed.

Whether you choose to batch farrow or farrow weekly, there will be pros and cons. Both farrowing systems can be versatile with all sizes of operation. Deciding which system is best might be a challenge. If you need some fresh eyes to look at your production system, or to help you plan a change, let us help!