ESF is an extremely flexible technology to implement and offers a variety of avenues to success. This does require producers to make several decisions during the planning stages in order to shape the farm to meet their needs. Here we review these opportunities and describe our experience with the different possibilities.
We have observed good success on farms that practice some degree of parity segregation when organizing the flow of their animals through a pen gestation barn.
Gilts are one of the most valuable assets on the farm, and the farms that have elected to flow the gilts separately from higher-parity sows are afforded several opportunities. These animals can be fed differently (e.g., a different ration than the sows) and managed differently (perhaps attended to by best available labor).
When mixed with higher-parity sows, the smaller, still growing gilt can be at a disadvantage and suffer negative consequences from being at the bottom of the social order. It may also be possible to segregate smaller P1 animals with gilts or to further subdivide the older parity sows (e.g., P2s) from the rest in an effort to reduce stress and competition in the pen environment.