“If you’d asked, I’d have said our sows are never off of feed. But boy, was I wrong.”
-- Katie Stambaugh is the Operations Manager for Green Valley Swine in Seven Valleys, Pa., where they currently average around 3,600 sows. She recently tried Ralco Swine’s SOS™ sow drench and shared her experience.
About three months ago, our Ralco salesman suggested we give the SOS sow drench a shot. We’d been using Ralco products for about five or six years, and so far, I’ve liked every Ralco product we’ve put into use in our operation. So I said yes.
What Got Us Started
When I started using SOS, I wasn’t looking for a product to help my sows stay on feed. I was looking for a product to give them more longevity. I had changed how I was bumping, which was causing my sows to nurse longer. I had sows that were nursing for 50 days, which is higher than the average. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t overusing them and was addressing their overall health.
I didn't feel like a sow drench would make that big of a difference, but I decided to check it out to see what I was missing. Shortly after starting using the product, I realized I had a lot of sows off feed.
Just Using the Product Showed Us How Much We Needed SOS
The way our system works, often, a sow’s card doesn’t finally get written up until the day following farrowing. We split suckle, put piglets under the heat lamp, and don't force the sow to get up during delivery. She’s attended to all day long, but her card isn't addressed until the next day. And as I’m writing the cards, I’m shutting off the feeders, as we leave them on full feed until they farrow.
If I see a sow standing up and eating, I mark that on the card. But this whole writing up process could take until noon the following day if it's a busy farrowing day. We’re checking our sows all the time, but we were missing the ones who were off of feed before that next morning’s check time.
By day three, we often treated them for low milk because we thought either something was wrong with the sow or the litter was railing out. So we were focused on getting her to produce milk when actually she was off feed, and we weren’t catching it in time. And it was quite a few of them.
By trialing SOS, I had the opportunity to watch and see what was really happening. And, I got to see what the response was to the drench. It’s an easy process, and the bottles are small. It takes less time to do it than it does to write it down on the cards. I drench everybody now.
Why it Matters
That 24 hours after farrowing is just as important as everything leading up to farrowing. And that’s the window we were missing. Most of us weren't taught to pay attention then because there's so much else happening in the barn. And today’s automatic feeding systems make it easy to miss.
When a sow starts to fall behind, you don’t notice until it's almost too late. If sows aren’t eating, they probably aren’t drinking, so now you have two problems. This means you need to address it quickly, and you're often just giving them a treat - a steroid, something for discomfort and some Vitamin B to perk them up.
The Numbers Told the Story
With SOS sow drench, we’re seeing fewer overall fall behinds. In my most recent group, I drenched 95 sows immediately after farrowing.
18 of the 95 returned to the feeder that day
68 more returned to the feeder in the first 24 hours
Overall, that's 90.5% of my sows back on feed in the first 24 hours. We only had to treat nine sows for being off of feed, and they were all back on within 48 hours. Five of those were retain sows. Only one sow ended up not being able to stay with her litter. Everybody else continued in the farrowing house to eat, maintained their pigs and had no issue.
Since we started using SOS drench, the biggest thing I’m noticing is that the sows can keep their litters together at a higher frequency. I'm weaning them at 23 days of age, and to me, it’s ok if all of those piglets weighed 12 pounds going out the door because they were all on the same sow. If I have 15 pigs on a gilt and they're all hers, they got everything they needed from their mother, and I didn't have to mess any litters up doing bumps and pulling fall behinds. It takes a lot of labor to treat those fall behinds, so that’s a plus of the SOS product as well. Healthier sows mean less labor to take care of sows that aren’t performing.
We Have to be Willing to Try Something New
Our knowledge of the swine industry is changing all the time. Just because we did something 20 years ago doesn’t mean it should stay that way.
We know so much more today than we did in years past. So we’re taking all this knowledge we have now, and we’re making changes. Today we know that less antibiotic use is better and that antibiotic resistance can be a real issue. Twenty years ago, I would have never given a piglet starch, but now we understand the importance of that microflora in the gut, and I’m giving starch to all my gilt litters. If we aren’t willing to make changes, we simply will not succeed.
We’re learning that many natural products are healthier and better for our animals. With natural products, I’m generally not having to worry about withdrawals. I can make a change and just watch to see what works.
If I want to reach high numbers, I have to change things. And I think that's really important.
Ralco Swine is a Brand That We Trust
Five or six years ago, the bookkeeper at the farm I was working for gave a Ralco salesman my number, and he contacted me about trialing some products. I’m always happy to trial a new product - I know that if it doesn’t work, I can just stop using it.
We started with ProsperEO™, an essential oil product we put into our feed. I laughed when I started saying, “yeah, we’re going to put essential oils in our feed.” But the strawberries on my sows disappeared, and their overall condition was noticeably better after using it.
Now we use ProsperEO on all our pellet feed for the sows, and they use it in other parts of the operation as well because of how well it's worked for us.
After ProsperEO, we added First Pulse® D, which is what I call a little energy drink for my piglets. And right now, because I’ve seen success with the other Ralco products I’ve used, I’m trying out a product called Dual Defender™ that helps with the coccidia and rotavirus that we usually see in the summer.
Ralco understands the challenges that the producers face. They provide solutions for the issues farmers are having – whether that be time, money or health. That’s what every farmer wants–lower costs, efficiency, and products that are easy to use, no matter your experience level. The team at Ralco delivers on all counts.
Let Us Help Build a Custom Recommendation for Your Farm
Let the team at Ralco help build a custom recommendation for your farm. Our team of swine experts and nutritionists develop tools using essential oils and prebiotics that can be customized to help improve the health of your pigs in many situations.
Swine producers working with Ralco typically see:
Less outbreaks and severity
Reduced antibiotic use
Overall higher health status of animals
Less fall-behind animals
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