When the piglets are three weeks old, they are weaned and moved from the farrowing barn into the nursery. The piglets are vaccinated against diseases that cause pneumonia. Piglets are also vaccinated against influenza, which can cause coughing, sneezing, pneumonia, high fevers, and abortion in pregnant sows.
In the nursery, the piglets are grouped by size. Each nursery pen in this barn on Heather’s farm can hold up to 20 piglets. Piglets from different litters may be put together in the nursery pens. They are kept in the nursery until they weigh around 50 pounds, or are about 10 weeks old.
The pigs are automatically fed into the group feed trough twice a day (on the left side of the photo above). All the pigs in the nursery will eat the same type of food, but depending on the sizes of the pigs, some pens may get more food than others.
Each pen has two water spouts that the pigs share. The water lines run along the ceiling, and water spouts hang down near the pigs backs.
These spouts are similar to what you might see on a hamster bottle. The pigs quickly learn how to press the spout to get water. One other thing you can see in the photo below is that the pig on the right has some scratches on his back and shoulders. When the pigs are first put together, they will fight a little among themselves to figure out which pigs are in charge in the pens. This is normal behavior for pigs. Once these 20 pigs get their “pecking order” sorted out, there is not much more fighting.
The nursery is kept very warm at 80 degrees. As the pigs grow, the temperature is gradually lowered to around 70 degrees. Pigs need warmer temperatures to be comfortable when they are younger and smaller. As they get older and bigger, they are more comfortable at slightly lower temperatures.
Once the pigs grow to around 50 pounds, they are moved to another barn called the finisher. Here, the pigs are kept in rooms that can hold up to 250 pigs. Each room is divided into 4 large pens. The pigs are grouped by size again, so the smallest pigs are not competing for food with the biggest pigs. The temperature in this building is kept right around 70 degrees.
Each room is all-in/all-out, which means that the entire group of pigs comes in together, and no new pigs are brought into the room. When the pigs are grown, they all leave the room together. When the room is empty, it is cleaned and disinfected before a new group of pigs is moved in.
In the photo above, you can see that many of the pigs in this pen came over to see what we were doing on our barn visit. There are also pigs at the feeders to the left of this photo. The finisher pens have the same type of water system as the nursery pens – you can see the green water lines with spouts hanging down into the pens.
When the pigs reach about 280 pounds, they are sold. Most of the pigs from Heather’s farm are sold to Tyson, and their meat ends up all over Indiana. Just because you’re buying pork at Walmart doesn’t mean it’s not local pork!
Each barn has a “control room” which houses all the controls for the water lines, automatic feeders, and ventilation. This barn has four finisher rooms, and a separate water line for each room. Every day, someone checks the water pressure for each line, the water spouts in each pen to be sure they are working, the feed levels in each automatic feeder, the feed amount setting for each pen, and makes sure that the automatic feeders are working.
Each room in the barn also has separate controls for the ventilation system in the room, ventilation system in the manure pits below the rooms, and the feeders. The automatic feeders are on timers, and the ventilation systems have thermostats so the rooms stay at a constant temperature.
These are the exhaust fans on the back of the finisher barn. (You can see these large fans inside the barn in the photo of the pigs in the finisher pen.)
Intake fans and temperature-controlling curtains are just as important as the exhaust fans for ventilation. Each room has curtains that are on separate automatic controls, so if one room is starting to get too warm, the curtains can be lowered to let in more cool fall air.
In the summer, these curtains are kept open to allow a constant flow of fresh air. The ventilation fans and the curtains work together to keep the pigs at a comfortable 70 degrees, even when it is 100 degrees outside!
And have I mentioned that this farm doesn’t smell like pigs? The ventilation system in the barns and the manure pits keep fresh air circulating and keeps the farm from smelling like pigs! When you go into the barns you do notice the smell, but once you’re outside (even with the curtains down) you can’t smell the pigs.