Comparison of Alternative Winter Farrowing Techniques on Four Niman Ranch Cooperating Farms in Southern Minnesota

Iowa State University Animal Industry Report 2006. Research of winter farrowing techniques on four farms was conducted over two winters (2002 and 2003) for this project. All four farmers sell to Niman Ranch Pork Company of Thornton, IA. Niman Ranch Pork Company is endorsed by the Animal Welfare Institute and uses that fact in their marketing campaign. The Animal Welfare Institute has formed an acceptable protocol for pig husbandry that they endorse and Niman Ranch requires. The biggest practical requirement of this protocol is that farrowing crates are not allowed. The entire standard can be found at Another challenging standard for Niman Ranch producers is raising pigs without antibiotics. This project was completed to determine if farrowing under these conditions could compete with conventional farrowings productivity. This project was the creative component for a Master of Agriculture project. The four farms were located in southeast Minnesota and used older existing buildings that were converted for farrowing. Three farms used dairy barns and one farm used a grower building. During the winters of 20012002 and 20022003, the four farms averaged 11.0 pigs born live per litter and 8.8 pigs weaned per litter. These values compare favorably with U.S. and Minnesota averages. Temperature in the barns during farrowing was about 49oF compared with an average outdoor temperature of 14oF. The use of bedding and zone heat allowed the piglets to be comfortable at the temperatures below the piglets lower critical temperature. Energy use per litter varied greatly by farm depending on insulation and ventilation.