November 19, 2019

New sow farm design minimizes disease transmission


A 2,200-sow, farrow-to-wean farm still under construction recently opened its doors for the public to see the latest technology in hog building design. More than 500 people registered to walk through the farm’s completed sow gestation and gilt development barns along with the unfinished farrowing barn.

The new Coleman Chops sow farm, being built by Brandon Romsdahl, is located near St. James, Minnesota. Swine Vet Center (SVC) helped owner Brent Coleman develop plans to better control disease and maintain a high-health status in the new facility. Brent, his father Dennis and family have farmed and raised hogs in this area for years. Brent will finish out all the hogs produced by the sow farm.

The new farm is equipped with several new features to help reduce disease entry into the farm, according to SVC’s Brad Leuwerke, DVM.

Filtered air

All air coming into the farm will be pulled through air fliters before entering the barn.

Brad Leuwerke, DVM, MS

“We know that using filters helps reduce the amount of virus that comes into a farm,” Leuwerke said. Many sow farms now use filters to help prevent the entry of diseases like porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) into their herd.

Cement perimeter walls

The sow farm also has an outside concrete wall installed around the entire facility to reduce air leakage.

“A typical sow farm with wood and steel inherently has air leaks, that take a lot of time to continue to seal,” Leuwerke added. “The cement makes a tighter building and forces the air to go through the filters.”

The concrete walls are made with a plastic-forming system by Nuform. The plastic forms are snapped into place for the wall, rebar installed and cement poured into the forms. When hardened, the concrete wall has a smooth, white plastic exterior. The Nuform also has foam built in for better insulation and energy savings.

Biosecure entry and exit

When completed, the sow farm office will include a heated disinfection room to make sure all supplies brought into the farm will be pathogen-free. The room warms up to at least 90 degrees for a period of time to inactivate all pathogens. Everything going into the farm, will go through this room.

Other standard biosecurity measures are in place for workers and visitors entering the facility. Some of these measures include a pressurized entryway, an ultraviolet box to disinfect items necessary in the farm like employee lunches and electronics, and shower in with clothing changes.

In addition, pigs will exit the facilty through a pressurized loadout room that prevents the backdraft of unfiltered air when doors are open and trailers are being loaded.

Internal multiplication

The sow farm will develop its own gilts to reduce the risk of disease brought in by replacement gilts from another site.

“Brent and I discussed internal multiplication a lot,” Leuwerke said. “He had prior experience with this and we feel it’s a good way to reduce disease risk.

“A segment of his herd will be able to make the replacement animals. Those sows will farrow with other sows and their offspring we chose to keep will walk down the hallway and go into the gilt developer unit. They never leave the farm,” he explained.

If replacement gilts ever do need to be brought in, they will come in at 3 weeks of age and will go into a quarantine room. The animals will be tested and when cleared, will move into the main farm.

Small pen gestation

Gestating sows in the new farm start out in gestation stalls and move to small pens after reaching 50 days of pregnancy. Twelve similar sows will be kept in each pen together as a group for the duration of gestation

“We tend to find pens mixed with like size and age sows don’t fight as much,” Leuwerke said. “It doesn’t eliminate it, but it reduces it.”

Twelve stanchions in each pen for feeding and a simultaneous feed drop also help reduce aggression.

The first gilts were moved into the new facility shortly after the open house. The rest of the facility is expected to be completed in early 2020, in time for the first farrowings.

“Our hope is they can go for a long time without experiencing a major health challenge and be able to send pigs to the nursery that do well,” Leuwerke concluded.