4 Cornerstones to Achieve Wean-to-Finish Excellence

The cornerstone is the first stone set in a masonry foundation. All other stones are set in reference to this stone. In turn, the cornerstone determines the position of every other stone in the structure.

Think about this concept in terms of a wean-to-finish operation. What needs to be set in place first to ensure success later? Based on research and applied knowledge, PIC identified four cornerstones or drivers of wean-to-finish excellence:

  • Quality weaned pigs
  • Nutrient intake
  • Pig health status
  • Swine marketing strategy

All four drivers have equal impact. To maximize success, address all four drivers equally and consistently. If one driver falters, it diminishes the success of the other drivers, and ultimately profit potential.

Wean-to-finish success is made of four equally important drivers: Quality weaned pigs, nutrient intake, health status and marketing strategy.

Quality weaned pigs

The newly weaned pig barn has a foundational impact on results. All pigs received should be quality weaned pigs, which have the following characteristics:

  • Health: The sow unit health status is stable, and the individual weaned pig is healthy.
  • Thriftiness: The pig has the ability and willingness to eat and is absent of phenotypic defects.
  • Good combination of age and weight: The pig is an adequate weight and age for weaning.
  • Consistency: Pigs born and weaned are uniform.

Weaned pig management practices to help achieve quality weaned pigs:

  • Screen all piglets for quality weaned pig characteristics at weaning.
  • Wean at 21-28 days (average 24 days) with a desired minimum weight of 9 pounds (4 kilograms).[1]
  • Respect farrowing room integrity. Do not wean smaller or younger pigs to complete groups or delay pigs with poor growth rates.
  • Ensure pig flow is large enough to fill a wean-to-finish barn quickly.

Your goal should be greater than 95% pig weaning weight efficiency. Ratio example: The weight at 21 days old should be 13.42 pounds (as company goal) divided by real weight (12.5 pounds). In this example, the pig weaning weight efficiency is 93% (12.5 divided by 13.42).

Weaned pig health status

A healthy wean-to-finish pig will grow quickly, efficiently and without much intervention. Maximize pig health by following biosecurity practices, providing a comfortable barn environment, boosting their immune system and enabling them to overcome disease challenges more easily.

Wean-to-finish management practices critical to maximizing pig health:

  • Prevent disease challenges. Create and implement a strict biosecurity plan and strengthen the immune system in growing pigs.
  • Have frequent staff communication. Ensure 100% adherence to biosecurity protocols to prevent on-farm disease entry. Hold regular staff meetings to review protocols and explain why each protocol matters.
  • Proper weaned pig management. Reduce age spread and sow sources per production flow, avoid mixing pigs flows and use ‘all-in-all-out’ flow management.
  • Monitor and diagnose properly. Implement robust disease monitoring and implement an effective diagnostic program to detect pig health challenges early.
  • Consult with your herd veterinarian to review health and diagnostics from previous groups to ensure proper vaccination protocols.

Weaned pig nutrition

An adequate diet with proper feed and water access is critical for growth in wean-to-finish pigs. Ensure access to feed and drinkers to prevent stress that could lead to compromised pig health and growth.

Also, maintain a proper barn environment (temperature and humidity targets) to encourage feed and water intake, avoid burning calories to maintain body temperature and minimize performance losses.

Management practices to support nutrient intake:

  • Watch for changes in water and feed consumption as this is a strong indicator of pig performance and potential health threats. The ratio of water consumption to feed intake should be between 2:1 and 3:1.
  • Ensure ventilation system settings match pig requirements.
  • Confirm adequate water access through proper drinker positioning and enough drinkers per pig.
  • Check water flow and water quality regularly.
  • Ensure adequate feed quality, feeder position and feeder space/pig as pigs grow.

Swine marketing strategy

Don’t let your marketing strategy be an afterthought. Identify the right swine marketing strategy and consistently apply the approach to achieve overall wean-to-finish success. Without the right marketing approach, efforts applied to the other drivers will be lost.

Pig management practices for a consistent marketing strategy:

  • Manage and minimize limiting factors during the growing period to achieve weight consistency.
  • Ensure greater than 94% full value pigs.
  • Properly select market pigs for the right truck at the right time.
  • Reduce sorting errors and market variation (aim for less than 10%-12%).
  • Manage transport carefully to minimize pig stress and ensure safety (Death on Arrival goal should be less than 0.15%).

Dive into wean-to-finish guidelines to optimize pig performance with the PIC GrowQuest digital tool. Contact your PIC team for support to help drive wean-to-finish excellence.

[1] Always adhere to applicable local laws, even if they differ from PIC’s recommendations.