“With this feeding system in the farrowing pen, we’re weaning pigs that are 900 grams heavier.”
Rik Bogaert and Nancy Verhaege
About the farm
- 350 sows in group housing
- Stable groups of 50 sows in a three-week system
- 1,500 fattening places
“Everything is now fully automated and based on the needs of the sow”
After careful consideration and consultation with colleagues, Rik and Nancy Bogaert-Verhaeghe made their decision. They switched to group housing with stable groups on Nedap feeding stations. For over a year now, the sows in the farrowing pen are fed automatically as well. The piglets have never been this heavy.
“At the end of ’93 we bought this farm and started modernising”, Rik Bogaert recalls. “In 2006, we expanded the sow herd and modified the breeding stall and gestation sections. Now we have around 350 sows in a three-week system. Before expanding, we took some time to see what our colleagues were doing. We wanted fixed groups of 50 sows, which fit exactly in one feeding station. So we chose Nedap feeding stations”, explains the pig farmer.
Maintaining production results
“Initial experiences were good, although it did take some getting used to. For the farmer as well as for the pigs”, Rik recalls. “We noticed it was more efficient to place the gilts and first-time sows in the gestation section a few days earlier. That way, they could get used to the system before the rest of the group came in.” During these changes, production results were nicely maintained. “We now have 30 to 31 piglets per sow per year, which is quite reasonable”, says Rik.
Farrowing pen renovation
Rik’s wife, Nancy Verhaeghe, focuses on the farrowing pen. “Our farrowing pens were already over 20 years old and were in need of renovation”, she begins. “When we started using feeding stations in the barn with the pregnant sows, we noticed that our sows were getting bigger. As a result, the sows and piglets had less space in the farrowing pen. That’s when we decided to renovate the farrowing pens, too.” Nancy explains how researcher Anita Hoofs, from the research facility Sterksel, shared information on how sows behave when they are farrowing. “We then went to Sterksel to look at various systems. After a trial period with four pens, we built two new farrowing sections in 2018–2019, with 52 feeding pens each, all equipped with Nedap Farrowing Feeding with Activator.
Farrowing Feeding provides an overview
Nancy is delighted with the new feeding system: “Since we started using the Activator, the feed drops into the trough in small portions, and it drops only the amount the sow will eat. This means we no longer have to remove residual feed from the troughs. The system provides a good overview, because we receive a notification via the app telling us which sow hasn’t activated the Activator, so we know which sow hasn’t eaten. We can then check what’s going on with that sow”, Nancy explains.
Shorter interval between weaning and breeding
The farrowing pen rations are divided into seven equal parts, which are dispensed every three hours starting at 5 o’clock in the morning. Rik has noticed that they’re getting more feed into their sows as a result: “In the traditional farrowing pens, we could feed each sow a maximum of 7 kg. In the trial barn, we could go up to between 9 and 9.5 kg. This resulted in higher milk yields, and it was also apparent when you looked at the piglets. The weaned piglets were 800 to 900 grams heavier. We can see the same trend in the new barn as well. At the same time, the sows are in better condition when they leave the farrowing pen.” Thanks to the improved condition of the farrowing sows, Rik has also noticed a positive impact in the breeding stall. “With the traditional system, 50% of the sows would be in heat after four days, and the other half after five. Now, 90 to 95% of all sows are already in heat and inseminated after four days. So those are some good results.”
Cooperation with the dealer
Belgian dealer Limko was responsible for the installation of the Nedap feeding system at the Bogaert-Verhaeghe family farm. “Cooperation was smooth”, says Rik. “It was all modified in one go, so everything could be organised and registered via the Internet.” They already have new plans for the future. “Eventually, we’d like to have a farm where, with the exception of our fattening pigs, everything is on a single location. And we’d like to commercialise and raise the profile of our commitment to animal welfare and the fact that we’ve been antibiotic free for over 10 years”, he emphasises.