'Streaming' Improves Profits I'd like to be the first in the U.S. to offer you a radical new idea. Over here in Europe we call it "streaming."

Streaming means pigs treated for a disease never return to their companions, but join other once-sick and recovered pigs right through to slaughter.

Streaming is a new process to try and contain disease on a single-site unit and to reduce the effect of disease on healthy pigs. I've had two years experience with the system on several farms.

The idea originated within the veterinary profession. My first reaction was that it would be impossibly difficult to operate; my second was that the extra accommodation needed would be impossibly expensive. In fact, neither has been the case, as Tables 1 and 2 suggest.

The streamed pigs were only those clinically affected by disease and needing therapeutic treatment, often in hospital pens. Once better, streamed pigs are reared to slaughter elsewhere on the farm.

New Accommodations Over two years of experimentation, and average 15% of the pigs were streamed in separate accommodation away from the main nursery and herds. The number streamed ranged from 8.6-17.5 "percent".

The producers used very cheap plastic tents or straw bale huts for the streaming accommodations. These only cost 10 "percent" to 17 "percent" of the cost of "proper" accommodation and were not meant to last all that long, 6 months to 4 years depending on design.

The results given in Tables 1 and 2 suggest that the concept is worth further exploration. The extra labor and capital costs are not onerous, providing you know what you are doing.

The supporters of streaming are all using bedding. They wear separate outer garments and boots and use different equipment for the streamed section of the farm. They attend to the streamed pigs before breakfast, then shower; or work with them last thing at the end of the day. The streamed pigs are either in separate buildings on the farm or on an adjacent site.

We learned several interesting things from the three farms we monitored:

* The system was easier to run than we expected, but all three farmers were professionals with excellent stockpeople.

* The reduction in drug costs per pig paid for the extra labor needed. Labor cost was 4.6% higher on the farms who streamed pigs.

* The housing cost/pig (all pigs) increased by 11 "percent" amortized over seven years.

* There were marked savings in feed costs for all pigs on all the three farms due to the following performance factors:

* The clean pigs grew 23 "percent" faster than the mixed pigs and had a 7.7% better feed conversion rate.

* The streamed (previously sick) pigs came within 2.4% of the growth rate of the mixed pigs and had the same food conversion.

* The streamed (previously sick) pigs at slaughter produced less lean, yielding 8.8 lb. salable meat less per ton of feed, excluding mortality differences.

* Overall, mortality from the start of the nursery stage to slaughter dropped by a quarter in the streamed herds.

* The streamed farms de-stocked by an average of 15 "percent". How much did this in itself boost growth?

Table 2 shows what these were in UK 1997 terms. In a period of excellent margins, income rose by 1.1 "percent" and costs actually fell by 2.8 "percent" (due to improved performance). This gave a rise of 9 "percent" more margin over operating costs.

Recovered pigs may contaminate healthy companions by shedding organisms to which they have become immune during the recovery process.

When the recovered pigs are returned to the pen, their companions are then challenged. They have to use nutrient resources to build up their own immunity, even if they don't actually succumb to the pathogens. Once-sick pigs, even in more modest accommodations, tend to get special treatment. They recover quicker, and daily gain may be compensated to a large extent by the time of slaughter. However, daily lean gain may not do so to the same extent.

I suggest you talk this concept over with your veterinarian if you're interested in streaming. Explore the possibility of buying cheap, semi-temporary housing in your locality or make your own.

Then set up a mini-streamed unit and see how you get on.