Pig production farms rear pigs for fattening piggeries. On these farms, sows are divided into small groups, and each group of sows is inseminated within a few days. The sows are pregnant for three months, three weeks and three days, after which they farrow – that is, give birth to piglets. They go through the gestation period at their own rhythm in a sheltered area. They have space to move freely.
One litter usually contains 10–12 piglets. The farrowing days are the busiest working days at the piggery as the sows are constantly monitored and, if necessary, assisted when farrowing. Each sow has slightly more than two litters per year on average. The best sows farrow more than ten times in their lives, although sows normally only farrow 3–5 times.
The sows take care of their piglets and suckle them for four weeks. The milk available during this period is the most important source of nutrition for the piglets, but they are also gradually introduced to animal feed to enable their digestive systems to become used to such nourishment before weaning.
The piglets have their own areas in the sow’s sty. Their area is heated using heat lamps because the animals need a lot of warmth during the first phase of their lives. The sties have underfloor heating. The sow has restricted room for manoeuvre during the suckling period to ensure that she does not accidentally harm the piglets.
Boars are castrated with the aid of painkillers when they are less than one week old to prevent them from developing boar taint at a later stage. Boar taint ruins the flavour of cooked meat, and no other method has yet been discovered to prevent it. Atria is constantly carrying out research in cooperation with farms to discover a different method for identifying and preventing boar taint.
After weaning, the piglets are moved to the nursery department, and the sows are taken to the fertilisation department to await their next oestrous cycle and insemination, which occurs within a few days of weaning. The piglets are in the nursery department for 5–6 weeks until they reach a weight of approximately 27 kilos. At this point, they are transferred to the fattening departments of pork breeding facilities or to fattening piggeries by Atria’s transportation contractors.