Large pens of weaning and growing pigs have revolutionized pig keeping both in quality of conditions for the animals and levels of commercial performance. Aggression is reduced or eliminated in larger groups and as there is no particular requirement to handle the pigs at this stage the system is ideal.
When these principles were applied to the finisher pig it was apparent that with the need to weigh the pigs in order to monitor progress and predict when they were ready for market, stress levels and the human intervention required, rendered the system at best undesirable and at worst unworkable. The industry reverted to weighing 'by eye' with a tendency to err on the safe side with subsequent lightening of finished weights, plus larger variation in weights going forward, the loss of growth potential and an increase in missed contract parameters. The relatively small UK pig industry was losing millions of pounds annually in lost growth and processor 'fines'
The development of sorters, basically weigh platforms connected by shedding gates to sources of feed and water, has automated the system and makes a big pen finisher a viable option.
Large groups of finisher pigs can now be marketed at close to their upper weight limit, with overweight's eliminated and because of the following feature now over a shorter marketing period.
The sorter in its standard form is able to sort pigs into one of three courts, direction being determined by pre-selected weight bands. In each of these courts a targeted feed is available to suit the dietary requirements of that weight of pig. This reduces protein wastage which reduces the production of greenhouse gasses. Targeted diets maximize lean meat production and tend to lead to a narrowing of variation in weights across groups and thus shortening marketing periods.
In addition the sorter / shedder can now be used to select individuals or any required number from the larger group by spray marking the target animal(s) during daily checks by staff. A light emitting array mounted in the sorter recognizes those marked and directs them automatically to a pre-determined holding pen.
The ability to handle all large finisher pigs in various and totally stress free ways is thus made very simple.
The straightforward training of the pigs to use the facility consists of closing a series of gates in a predetermined pattern over a number of days.
The system was introduced commercially to the UK by AM Warkups some years ago and has recently undergone a major update. The new model of this ultra reliable sytem is now available.