A modification to old-fashioned batch farrowing could provide small pork production facilities the high-herd-health advantages that larger operations enjoy.

Carlos Pijoan, research veterinarian at the University of Minnesota, and Montserrat Torremorell, DVM, with PIC Health Assurance, have put together a booklet on band production and high-health systems for small farms.

"The concept is old, but we've tweaked it to fit a more modern type of production," Pijoan says.

Band production, which Pijoan calls "glorified batch farrowing," is modified from successful farm operations in Europe. The Europeans use a 28-day weaning schedule, which requires more farrowing space than this model.

Here's how the modified band production works: the number of sows is limited only by the number of farrowing crates available and are divided into six rotating groups. Farrowing is every 21 days and pigs are weaned from 12 to 17 days of age (average 14 to 16 days).

While maximizing the use of the farrowing capacity, the system has a few drawbacks. It requires good stockmanship, allows only two to three days for all sows in a group to farrow and only allows four to six days to empty, clean and re-fill the crates with the next group of sows.

Band production generates segregated early weaning (SEW) pig groups three times the amount of a weekly farrowing schedule and, therefore, allows producers to adapt all-in, all-out for nursery/finishers or for wean-to-finish feedin g.

Smaller farm operations can also move into a three-site production operation under the plan, Pijoan says. The sites can be separated by barriers as simple as a fence. Another key to the three-sites-in-one farm is paying attention to personnel and one-directional pig movement.

"More than anything, you are making sure that the personnel who attends each of the sites is either different or is shower-in, shower-out in between the sites," Pijoan says.

Pijoan and Torremorell estimate that the band system could yield 2.4 farrowings/sow/year. Good genetics could yield 23 pigs weaned/sow/year and the high-health status could mean 21 pigs sold/sow/year. For more information about band production, contact Pijoan at (612) 625-1233 or pijoa001@tc.umn.edu.