The Milk Taxi for Piglets is the long-awaited solution for a problem that has become increasingly present in today’s piglet raising operations: the technical implementation of milk supplementing the piglets’ diet!
For quite some time, it has been true that a sow’s milk production is unable to meet the increasing need expressed by more and more piglets growing faster and faster. By neglecting this milk deficit and relying on a prestarter only, you give away profitability potentials.
The continued rise of critical profitability indicators, such as number of weaners per year and weight at weaning, while undoubtedly bringing economic benefits, also raises many issues in daily operation routines.
So far only unsatisfactory possibilities to respond to this development have been available for daily practice: foster sows reduce the average number of weaners per sow per year because of the longer time to weaning, and daily weight gain is lower with artificial sows.
On the other hand, adding milk to the diet has been a painstaking and time-consuming extra. This is where the Milk Taxi for Piglets comes in.
As litter size increases, of necessity the weight at birth decreases, and the proportion of lightweight sucklings is higher. At the same time, the growth potential of today's piglets has increased substantially and they can gain more weight within a short timeframe. In order to leverage the genetic potential of all piglets to the fullest extent and to ensure healthy development of all piglets as much as possible, milk added regularly as a supplement is indispensable.
The milk deficit—the sow's milk production insufficient to offer all piglets the needed amount of milk—has been one of the biggest challenges in piglet raising for about 10 years and makes itself felt more and more every year, as the animals' biological performance increases. While a sow's lactation performance does go up as the litter size increases, the amount of milk per piglet has decreased for years. The Milk Taxi is your convenient tool to remedy the milk deficit.
To counteract the milk deficit issue, more and more operations use foster sows or artificial sows. Both systems, however, can be tricky. The best solution is to balance litter size across sows and supplement the diet for the piglets with milk in feeder bowls using the Milk Taxi. The piglets' curiosity will help them get used to the bowls easily, and as the milk diet is appropriate and matched to the need, they will lick the bowl totally clean until the next feeding turn.
If a sow's milk quantity is low, social ranking affects intake. Weaker piglets will suckle less often, develop more slowly, and get less milk even when they make it to a teat because they will suckle less forcefully. Use the Milk Taxi to make sure your piglets are strong and well fed from day one.
Studies have shown that the piglet death rate drops by one-fifth when added milk is fed (from 9.4% to 7.6%). Use the Milk Taxi to get well-fed piglets that stay happily in the piglet nest rather than remaining below the sow where they are at risk of getting crushed.
The fact is that feeding piglets a milk supplement will give you more piglets with a better development and a higher weight at weaning. On the downside, added milk means cost and daily work for feeding. Any down-to-earth farmer will therefore immediately look at the cost/benefit ratio. Does the added expense make economic sense?
According to Hilgers and Hühn (in Bauernzeitung, issue of week 35, 2010), piglet operations in the Rhineland area experienced a rise of the weight at weaning by 0.4 kg to 7.5 kg with two added-milk feeding turns a day for 14 days. Concurrently, the piglet death rate went down from 9.4% to 7.6%, which is equivalent to an increase of the number of piglets per sow per year of + 0.4. For a 300-sow operation, these figures result in the following benefit:
|+ 0,4 weaned piglet per sow per year
x 300 sows x € 94.–
|+ 0,4 kg more weight at weaning
x 300 sows x € 15.–
|Total Benefit:||13.080,- €|
14 days of milk added at 1.5 l/piglet
€ 240.–/quintal of milk replacer (net)
= € 0.9/piglet x 25 piglets x 300 sows
H&L Milk Taxi for Piglets 80 l, complete € 3,500.– (net)
with 10-year depreciation period
Interest of 5% for € 1750,–
Electricity 4 kWh x € 0.25 x 365 days
Repairs at 3% of new value
|Added workload (according to Hilgers and Hühn, 2010):
20 minutes/day for 20 litters:
20 minutes x 14 days: 20 litters x 2,3 litters
x 300 sows = 9660 minutes
= 161 Stunden x 10,- €
|Total Cost:||9.268,- €|
|Excess Profit:||3.812,- €|
The computed excess profit, then, amounts to € 3,812. The actual benefit, however, will be even higher because piglets that do not experience any energy deficit after birth, are healthier and stronger. Accordingly, they will be able to defend their teat and, as a consequence, the piglets that are fed added milk will also drink more of the valuable sow milk, which nothing can match in terms of quality.
It is important to operate profitably, but your health is even more important! Give your body a break and leave the strenuous part of piglet feeding to the Milk Taxi.
Of course, there always is a way to do it at lower cost. Feeding milk is probably the part of agriculture which is most prone to more or less creative trial and error meant to facilitate your daily chores: hand trucks redesigned with barrels, hand carts carrying churns, watering cans, measuring jugs, etc. However, if you focus on quality, just as we do, then the following information will be of interest to you.
Make sure that the piglets drink colostrum milk early on. Attach the new-borns to the sow's teats and be sure that they suckle. Small, weakly suckling piglets need 10 to 15 millilitres of beestings given with the drenching bottle (plastic bottle with plastic tube). This will give them the strength needed to defend their own teat. Colostrum can be harvested using an electrical pulsation pump, the kind used by the way by breast-feeding women as well. Try again to attach the piglet to a teat 45 to 60 minutes later, in order to promote colostrum intake.
Check the sow's teats. If the litter size is large or the sow's teats are underdeveloped, start from day one adding twice a day about 150 ml of milk per litter. Follow closely the milk replacer manufacturer's indications on mixing and feeding the product. For feeding milk as a supplement, dedicated plastic or stainless steel bowls installed on the grated mats are suitable. It is advisable to mark the quantity for a given litter on the pen separator or the sow record, for easier reference. When the piglets drink all the milk in the feeder bowl, the quantity of one turn can be increased, which should then be marked down as well. The bowls have to be cleaned once a day. The easiest moment is the morning, when the bowls are mostly empty at any rate. Moving piglets to balance litter size should be considered only on the first day and after sufficient colostrum intake.
A solid prestarter supplement is an additive to the piglets' milk diet that does make sense, but it is unable to compensate for the milk deficit from birth. Milk is what the piglet is used to from birth, intake of a solid diet is something it has to learn over time. This is the reason why an appropriate milk diet during the first 14 days is so critical, because digestive enzymes will begin to act and, therefore, prestarters will bring their full benefit, only after that period. A possibility is to use the same bowl for milk in the morning and for a (small amount of) prestarter in the evening from one week before weaning. In the process it does not matter or even is helpful if some milk remains in the bowl (it dissolves the prestarter, thereby promoting intake). The amount of prestarter dispensed in the evening can then be increased consistently, while milk feeding in the morning continues too.
After weaning, it is recommended to go on feeding prestarter for about 3 more days and then blend the weaner feed into it. The smallest weaners can be fed milk for one more week in a flat-deck pen.
Since the Milk Taxi is a mobile appliance, all piglets are easily reached in most cases. Pay attention to a good condition of the paths on which it will travel and to any gates being wide enough to allow the desired Milk Taxi model to pass. If you prefer not to push the Milk Taxi into the individual partitions of the barn, you can extend the length of the hose and dispense the milk into the feeder bowls conveniently with the alternative remote control on the dispensing arm. The Milk Taxi is equipped with an integrated water heater. Therefore, an additional heater is not critical. The heating element can be set, through a timer, to reach the desired mixing and drinking temperature at the very moment it is needed.
It is common, but it is also heavy workload, to take the bowls out of the pen and clean them manually. An operation in Northern Germany using the scheme in practice has developed another, very efficient technique: the farmer has made a cylindrical "pot" of stainless steel that matches the bowls in diameter and fits exactly on the gun of his high-pressure cleaner. To clean the bowl, he simply places the "pot" on top of them and flushes them with one shot of the high-pressure gun. The pressure and the turbulent flow achieve a thorough cleaning outcome, while the "pot" avoids splashing. The pen remains very dry