The "G" Barn

This week and weekend I got my first experience in the gestation barn or better known as the "G" barn.  First thing we did was mix up the feedback and fed that to a certain row in the "G" barn.  This is to help build up their immunity system.  I had to gather manure from the youngest sows that are in farrowing.  Usually they try and use gilts or a P1 because they would have the most bugs in them because they are the newest in the barn.  We then mix it with water in a blender.  They do this every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.  I also learned how they pick lines and make sure every sow/gilt gets the right amount of feed and make sure they get fed.  Sometimes the feed gets plugged in the feed pipe because the sows/gilts are licking the end of the pipe and making the feed wet and that causes the feed to plug up.  You have to use a rod and dig out the clog and bang on the metal pipe to get the feed to fall down.  While I did that Michelle used a blower and blew/cleaned the alleyways in front and back of the sows and gilts.

After picking the lines we went into breeding.  We loaded a boar (male pig) in the boar kart and started to see if we could catch any rebreeds.  Rebreeds are sows that have previously been bred that might not have gotten pregnant.  The staff at Gruber Ridge taught me what to look for when a sow/gilt are in heat.  There are many different signs to look for.  It takes a very observant person to catch heats because not every sow/gilt shows heats the same way.  One of the main ones is if her ears are erect and she is in a locked position.  And by locked position, I mean if I apply pressure on her back she does not move.  Most gilts/sows are very touchy and will jump or move if you touch them, but if they are in heat they will stand still and be locked in position because if they were bred naturally they would have to support the weight of the boar.  I think that day we caught only 2 or 3 rebreeds that we had to breed again, which is very good.  Then we moved the boar kart to the "A" row in the "G" barn.  They put all the recently weaned sows and gilts in the "A" row so they know where everything is at that needs to be bred.  We also brought in a trail boar to follow the kart and walk back in forth in front of the sows/gilts to stimulate them and bring them into a standing heat.  Unlike other animals like cattle you need a boar pig to help bring the sow/gilt into heat so they can be bred.  The smell of the boar helps stimulate the uterus to draw the semen up into the uterine horns.

I also learned how they breed wean sows is different then how they breed gilts.  Everything on the farm is bred using AI or artificial insemination.  They use a breeding buddy/saddle to breed gilts.  This allows for a more natural insemination of the semen.  They don't use the breeding buddy/saddle on the wean sows.  They use a intrauterine catheter which gets the semen even farther into the sows uterus in the uterine body.  Most conventional artificial insemination takes place just past the cervix.  After the catheter is inserted in a wean sow you attach the semen tube and squeeze the semen into the catheter into the wean sow.  After observing for a day and being instructed on the proper technique I was given the opportunity to bred a few wean sows and gilts.  I learned there is so much more with breeding than just breeding, but also learned about the different markings they use to tell you whether they were bred that day.  They mark them with a body marker with a single line down the spine and if it is the second time they breed them they put another line across the spine.  They usually breed every sow and gilt atleast twice.  A pig is in heat for 48 hours, so they will breed them lets say on Monday for the first time and if on Tuesday she shows signs of heat again they will breed her again on Tuesday.  They are trying to fertilize as many eggs as possible to get as many piglets as possible. 

Once we were done with the breeding we had to make cards and record what we bred.  They have a system for the cards that hang over the sows/gilts on a small cable attached with a clothes pin.  They fold the cards in half and have three different colors they use.  The colors are blue, green, and pink/red.  The colors mean something but I am not sure yet what they mean.  They fill out the cards on both sides so you can read them from the front and back of the sows.  In the lower left corner they put the sows/gilts ID number for example 29345, in the lower right corner they put a "W" for a wean sow and a "G" for a gilt.  In the upper left corner they put the week of breeding we are on.  Last week was week 43 and this coming up week will be 44.  In the upper right corner they put the day she was first bred.  So if she was bred on Monday we would put a number 1, Tuesday would be a number 2 and so on.  This will determine the group she will be in once she farrows and gets moved to the farrowing barn as long as she stays pregnant and doesn't have to be rebred.  After the cards are made we have to record everything in our notebooks and fill out a Daily Breeding Sheet.  On this sheet we record the female's ID number,  the breeder's initials, the semen's ID number, the status of the pig meaning whether she is a wean sow we us a "W" or a gilt we use a "G" or a rebreed we use "RB".

You also have to indicate if this was her first breeding or second breeding.  All of this paper work must be submitted by 3:00pm each day. 

As my externship is coming to an end I am truly amazed at the organization and record keeping that takes place in the swine industry.  I am learning so much each and every day and can't wait to apply what I learned this summer in my Animal Science class at Kee High.