3 ways to pave a path to optimal swine nursery performance

Wisconsin State Farmer

Shoreview, MN – Have you been looking for ways to save input costs on your wean-to-finish or grower/finisher operation? Before you start cutting, take a hard look at how well you are managing transitions. You might find a low-cost change in management could save more money than a cut to inputs in the long run.

Carefully managed transitions support optimal returns on investment, said Dan McManus, DVM, young animal swine specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition.

Dr. Dan McManus

“Smooth transitions help pigs stay focused on intake and feed conversion for optimal gut health and overall performance,” McManus said. “If you manage the environment to limit transitional challenges, you can help your pigs build on their weaning weights for optimal end of nursery weights.”

According to research at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center, weaning weights and end-of-nursery weights are strong predictors of finishing weights. In an 18-month study involving 1,770 pigs, results indicated each additional pound at weaning was correlated to an increase of 1.8 pounds at Day 32. Each additional pound at Day 32 post-weaning correlated to 2.1 additional pounds at finishing on Day 110.

Here are three areas to evaluate to help pigs build on their weaning and end-of-nursery weights through optimal transition management.

1.   Know what your pigs need before arrival

The more accurate information you can get from the source farm, the better care you can give your pigs when they arrive. Be sure to confirm the exact number of head and arrival dates, the ages and weights of the pigs and the percentage of health-challenged pigs. Good communication with the sow farm will allow you to be prepared and anticipate any issues that might come up in the first few weeks after weaning.

“The more you know about the way the source farm operates, the better job you can do minimizing changes for the pigs,” McManus said. “Every change you eliminate is one less hurdle for them to jump.”

2.   Minimize stress with a spotless environment

One simple, low-cost way to promote healthy pigs is to be diligent when cleaning before new groups arrive, McManus said. Clean your barn top to bottom, inside and out. This includes cleaning slats, feeders, gating, inlets, fans and curtains, as well as office equipment, boots, rattle paddles and sorting panels. All surfaces should be disinfected and dried before new pigs arrive. Consider inspecting the facility when cleaning is finished to make sure it meets your expectations.

“Thorough cleaning and management of the environment will help reduce stress factors including disease risk,” McManus said. “This helps give arriving pigs the opportunity to perform their best, avoiding potential performance lags,” he explains.

3.   Manage each pig’s needs

“Have a plan in place to stock your pens,” McManus said. “Then be ready to be flexible. When the pigs come off the truck, they might not fit exactly into the plan you created. A well thought out plan that you can adapt when challenges come up will help you be ready for success in any situation.”

You can expect 10 percent of the delivered pigs to be smaller than desirable. Plan ahead to manage these pigs differently. Separating small pigs from the main population will allow you to feed and manage to their needs to help them perform their best.

Communicating with the source farm, thoroughly cleaning the barn and developing a well thought out stocking plan can be effective tools to help provide a smooth nursery transition. By managing the environment, you are helping pigs to maintain and build on their weaning weights to reach their optimal weights at end-of-nursery. The more you can remove obstacles for your pigs, the smoother transition they will have, and the better return you can get on your input investment.

For more information about swine nutrition and management, contact your Purina Animal nutrition representative or visit

Watch a presentation about supporting pigs through transitions by Dan McManus, DVM, young animal swine specialist at

Because of factors outside of Purina Animal Nutrition LLC’s control, individual results to be obtained, including but not limited to: financial performance, animal condition, health or performance cannot be predicted or guaranteed by Purina Animal Nutrition LLC.