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    Pig Unit

    The Harper Adams University Pig Unit is a 230-sow farrow-finish, indoor unit running with a 3-week batch operation.

    The pig unit consists of:

    • Two straw-based free-access stall dry sow houses
    • Two fully-slatted farrowing rooms
    • Three batches of weaner accommodation (majority fully-slatted)
    • Four batches of fully-slatted finisher accommodation
    • A straw-based gilt rearing/hospital building and a building with Nedap PPT individual recording stations.
    • There is also an off-site overflow contract finishing unit that takes excess pigs from the weaning to finish stage.

    The herd has been closed since 2017, with pure Landrace grandparent sows (GPs) being served with LW to produce the TN70 F1. The best performing GPs were bred pure to produce the next generation of GPs, allowing the creation of the current pure herd of TN70 (Large White x Landrace) pigs. When these sows are artificially inseminated (AI) a Tempo terminal sire is used for the majority of the servicing. However, other sires may be used for sireline evaluation work.

    The unit maintains a high health status, being free from Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) and Enzootic pneumonia (EP), despite having hundreds of visitors per year. The majority are students, but also include individuals from industry training courses.

    The focus of the unit is balanced between high-performance commercial production (top 10% nationally), demonstrating best-practice and teaching for pig production, and supporting applied research.


    Investment in facilities and stock allows Harper to emulate high output commercial units and ensure research projects continue to be relevant to today’s modern high-performance pigs, with the unit being designed to allow a wide variety of research with flexible facilities.

    The facilities available are:

    • Individually feeding sows during gestation and lactation, allowing for trialling of different diets.
    • Sows being weighed and P2 backfat measured at weaning/service and pre-farrowing.
    • The use of AI facilitates sireline evaluation work.
    • All piglets are weighed individually and given an EID tag at birth, and weighed again at weaning, and throughout their life.
    • Supplementary milk and creep usage pre-weaning can be recorded on an individual piglet basis.
    • Fully-slatted weaner accommodation (8.5-40kg) can provide (per batch) up to 36 pens of six pigs for research trials and seven pens of 25 pigs for behaviour studies, up to 8 weeks post weaning.
    • There are four fully-slatted batches of finishing accommodation with 14 pens of 25 pigs.
    • Feed is supplied to each finishing pen by the Roxell Multifast system, which weighs and records the feed to each pen automatically. This system can feed and blend many different diets, and deliver to the assigned pen on demand through sensor control.
    • There are also Nedap Pig Performance Testing stations which record individual feed intake and weight of group-housed pigs from 20 kg to slaughter. The majority of the unit is Home Office Licensed.


    The sow herd is highly prolific, averaging 16.8 piglets born alive and 14.3 piglets weaned over the last 12 months. The weaning weights are high: at 26 days the average litter weight is 120.5 kg, and the average piglet weight is 8.42 kg.

    Over the last 12 months, pre-weaning mortality has decreased, which has meant that number of piglets weaned has increased despite numbers born alive remaining static, and is currently approaching an average of 15 pigs reared per sow. Pigs weaned per sow per year has increased to 33.4 this year, compared to 32.2 last year.

    And the post-weaning performance is good, with the average pig deadweight for the last 12 months equalling to 86.3 kg (equivalent to approx. 115 kg liveweight) at 22 weeks of age. This corresponds to 738 grams per day of liveweight gain from birth to slaughter.

    Research Projects

    Research projects reflect the needs of the industry, and subjects include nutrition at all stages, genetics, behaviour and welfare, environment, meat quality. Final-year students conducting their HRPs are often involved in these projects. Recent projects include:

    • Sireline performance evaluation
    • Pre-weaning usage of supplementary milk and creep
    • Effect of sow nutrition on colostrum quality and piglet performance
    • Effect of sow and piglet nutrition on piglet gut health
    • Weaner nutrition studies to reduce the impact of the zinc oxide ban
    • Finisher nutrition to improve efficiency
    • Behaviour studies assessing environmental enrichment for weaners and finishing pigs
    • Slurry additives to reduce ammonia production

    The pig unit is also involved in the ES Farm productivity and ES Farm Slurry and Water groups to facilitate research projects for Future Farm to achieve the goal of net-zero by 2030.

    In addition to HRP and Future Farm collaboration projects and commercial research contracts the pig unit attracts DEFRA, AHDB and Link funding through collaborative projects with other institutions.

    Future Farm Collaboration Projects:

    Teaching And Demonstration

    The aim is to attract people to, and educate them about the pig industry. All first-year students will have a tour of the pig unit to introduce them to basic pig production, with further tutorials depending on their course. Practical tutorials include:

    • Animal health
    • AI and ultrasound scanning
    • Handling pigs
    • Environmental monitoring.

    In addition, the unit offers many sessions per week where students can sign up to gain experience in tasks such as feeding sows, AI, processing piglets, weighing pigs, administering vaccinations, weaning sows and piglets.

    The pig unit also hosts external companies for training and CPD.

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