Convenience and the ability to better care for individual sows were the determining factors for Roger Cuijpers when he expanded from 180 to 350 sows and switched to group housing in 2006.
“The Nedap Electronic Sow Feeding stations appealed to me for welfare and image reasons,” says Cuijpers. “The system is also convenient and efficient, so it was an easy decision.”
The changes are paying off. The number of weaned piglets per sow rose from 24.5 to 29, and the percentage of sows returning to estrus was cut in half.
“The percentage of sows returning to estrus is about 6 percent. This says it all,” says Cuijpers.
One large group
Cuijpers chose to use one large group pen; the sows join the group immediately after breeding. Cuijpers finds this process works well, as the sows know each other.
Gilts join the group before insemination, allowing them to acclimate to the pen.
The transition went better than Cuijpers had expected.
“Everything went according to plan. In fact, even better,” Cuijpers says. “I thought the sows would fight more. It does happen occasionally, but overall the group is very calm.”
Cuijpers’ barn has five Nedap feeding stations.
“We could probably have managed with four, but too little capacity causes unrest, and you immediately run into trouble if one goes wrong,” he says.
Automation saves time
“I see automation as a very positive thing. With the Nedap ESF, we now have twice as many sows. This could not have happened without the feeding stations and automated heat detection. It saves me a lot of time,” he adds.
More time allows Cuijpers to focus on other things both on and off the farm.
“It only takes me half an hour to run my morning checks. Then I can have breakfast with my children, and spend the rest of the day in the farrowing house and the sow barn. That’s where it all happens, after all.”