What are the advantages and disadvantages of adopting wean-to-finish technology?

The primary benefits or opportunities for increased margin in wean-to-finish
production settings come as a result of reduced labor costs and improved piglet
performance due to a reduction in stress associated with movement and
resocialization. Although labor costs on a per pig basis are generally low in the
nursery and finishing phase, they are lower in the wean-to-finish facility
because of the reduction of time necessary for pig movement and less frequent
cleaning and disinfecting of rooms and/or buildings.
Producers switching to wean-to-finish production systems have reported
improvements in growth rate (ADG) and improved feed efficiency compared with
systems utilizing a separate nursery and finisher. The improvement in growth
rate and feed efficiency observed is probably related to removal of the social and
environmental challenges that occur when taking pigs from the nursery to the
finisher and crowded conditions observed in most nursery facilities following a
standard production system. If the reduction in piglet stress improves feed intake
in the standard late nursery (6 ? 8 week old pig) and early grow-finish stage of
production (10 ? 12 week old pig), producers may see an improvement in lean
tissue deposition in this age period that could result in a higher lean growth rate
and higher lean content at marketing. Caution should be used when directly
comparing production numbers from wean-to-finish production and standard
finishing production figures. Producers must remember wean-to-finish systems
include the nursery phase, where pig feed efficiency is very good and daily
growth rate is relatively low compared to later in the production cycle. Hence, a
summary of a wean-to-finish unit will show a better (lower) feed conversion ratio
and poorer (slower) average daily growth rate for a group when compared to a
standard finishing facility taking pigs from 8 weeks of age to market weight.
To compare systems, all nursery feed consumption and pig weight change need
to be added to traditional finishing records and weight of pigs entering and
leaving both facilities must be nearly equal. Failure to compare systems
accurately will bias production system decisions.
Advantages of Wean-to-Finish Production include:
· Reduced transportation costs
· Reduced labor costs associated with moving pigs
· Lower labor costs for washing and disinfecting facilities
· Reduced stress on the pig from mixing and resocialization
· Increased facility flexibility
· Reduced down-time between groups (if production flow is well managed)
· Improved ventilation at lighter weights can improve health
Disadvantages of Wean-to-Finish Production include:
· Increased facility costs to accommodate nursery age pigs
· Less efficient use of building area from weaning to approximately 60 pounds
· Potential for higher utility costs
· Higher level of management required
The disadvantages listed above are related primarily to higher equipment costs
associated with housing a weaned pig in a building sized for finishing pigs. The
added construction costs must be offset through improved performance, better
pig flow and/or lower labor costs for wean-to-finish production units to be cost