Deep straw in pigs – when does it work?


John Gadd, Pig Progress 

Apr 8, 2019    


Pig management expert John Gadd became intrigued by a recent farm visit featuring a pig farm in Germany, keeping pigs on straw. Here is his view on that development – and what it takes to make it into a success.


I continue a short series on good ideas in pig production which I feel deserve further comment. There have been some excellent articles in Pig Progress recently. One was on the economics of deep straw bedding for growing pigs.


The ins (and outs) of deep straw


Living and working in a predominantly cereal growing area, I grew up with deep straw both for dry sows and post-weaners and have long been a firm convert, so was glad to see the costings of one enterprising German farmer in Pig Progress (in December 2018) comparing both new conventional and new fully automated deep straw housing for 2,000 grow-finishing places. His careful costings revealed that the relatively new straw-bedded housed pigs cost € 58/pig place (12.7%) less than the equally new conventional housing.


From his records the straw bedded pigs performed similarly to the conventionally housed pigs but no figures were provided for the cost of straw which these days can be expensive. Some 10 kg of straw was needed per 10 kg of feed – about 30 kg of straw per pig place (per batch?) through to slaughter, one presumes from leaving nursery accommodation.


Drawbacks of deep straw


What is of interest is that an additive is added to the straw to facilitate composting and reduce the physical labour needed to keep the straw bed ‘working’ which we found could be a disadvantage, and along with the cost of straw puts people off. So this innovation of pre-treating the straw into a marketable compost is important. Big Dutchman can advise on what the German producer uses.


On the other hand, most deep straw units in a cereal growing area, especially where the producer feeds his pigs from his own farm-grown grain and stores, then distributes used straw bedding on to his cereal acreage, makes the deep straw concept viable.


But outside cereal-rich farmland I have always found that careful calculations on the cost of procuring ‘off-farm’ straw and the cost of removing it economically must be considered and factored in to the proposition. Farmers can be easily swayed by observing how calm and contented any pig is in a deep straw bed.


Housing cost can be much cheaper ...


Do deep strawed pigs perform better? ...


Moving straw in and out ...


Conclusions on deep straw in pig ...


more, including links, table