The long and short of pig bedding - Variable chop length with custom delivery system

The long and short of pig bedding - Variable chop length with custom delivery system

All pigs are outdoor reared, with sows in the farrowing arcs for around 6 weeks, followed by weaning in sow service pens.

Until recently all straw bedding was undertaken by hand on the farm. In the farrowing arcs, slices from rectangular bales of straw were teased apart by hand and the sows left to spread the straw to create a farrowing bed. 

Simon felt that there was room for improvement in the quality of the straw bedding that was being provided to the pigs in all housing areas, in particular the farrowing arcs in order to better the welfare of the sows and piglets at this critical time.

Although the bedding operation was labour intensive the goal was to improve husbandry, rather than reduce inputs of labour or straw.

Simon’s objective was to find a machine that could bed up farrowing arcs with shorter straw, bed up weaning arcs and dry sow arcs with longer straw, as well as being able to bed up weaners pens outside with un-chopped straw.

Simon adds “The reason behind chopping straw for the farrowing arcs was that farrowing beds need to be dry in winter and chopped straw gives me that”. In addition, “providing a loose bed of chopped straw allows sows to more easily create a comfortable bed, ensuring piglets retain warmth for improved live weight gain”. Simon also aimed to reduce piglet mortality which occasionally resulted from piglets lying underneath the sow due to an uneven straw bed”. 

Straw length was critical, “the machine had to be able to chop straw short for farrowing arcs – but not so short that the bed ‘caps’ and forms a dense mat”. 

Simon had some clear requirements for a bedding machine; it must be mounted on the tractor to provide manoeuvrability around the huts, as well as access to muddy fields during wet months. Straw must also be delivered evenly across the whole area in the farrowing arcs, with all corners being filled. 

Simon had a demonstration of a Teagle Tomahawk 7150 ‘Dual Chop’ which was able to process the straw as required, with the chop length being easily adjustable from the tractor cab. However, the machine was not able to deliver the straw cleanly into the farrowing huts.

Simon and Teagle Sales Manager David Threadgold developed a delivery chute fitted with a large diameter tube that could be used by a second operator outside the tractor to deliver short straw directly into the farrowing arcs. To deliver long straw to outdoor pens the directional swivelling chute is simply lifted clear of the special delivery tube using the electronic control box in the tractor cab. 

To improve the operator control over the feed rate of large rectangular bales the machine was fitted with a tailgate extension which allowed half a bale to sit outside the chopping chamber.

Three months in, how does Simon feel the machine has contributed to the operation? “The machines does exactly what it was bought for, with the adjustable chop length system giving us good control over the chop length for each of the bedding systems we use”.