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"The results speak for themselves"

Roger Cuijpers (NL)  

One of the first things Roger Cuijpers of Maria-Hoop (Limburg, Netherlands) did when he took over his parents ' sow farm in 2006 was to build a new sow shed. That meant expanding from 180 to 350 sows, but also switching to group housing.

Cuijpers decided to keep the sows in a large group with Nedap feeding stations. "It was an easy decision. It appealed to me for welfare and image reasons, and also because it is so convenient to work with. "

 Nedap Varkens Voerstation - dynamische groep One large group
Convenience is a top priority for Cuijpers. So he opted for one large group. The sows join the group immediately after covering. "That always works well, as the sows know each other. The percentage of sows returning to oestrus is about 6%: that says it all. "  

The gilts first join the group before insemination to give them a chance to get used to it, after it was found that joining the group after insemination did not work. "You have to find out these things for yourself, so it does take a bit of getting used to. "

Smooth switch-over
Nevertheless, the switch-over went better than Cuijpers had expected. "Everything is going to plan. In fact, even better: I thought the sows would fight more. It does happen occasionally, but the group is generally very calm. " The sows rest for a large part of the day. At about 5 pm the feeding stations start a new cycle and the group starts moving. Cuijpers has five Nedap feeding stations in his shed. "We could probably have managed with four, but too little capacity causes unrest and you immediately run into trouble if one goes wrong. "

Automation
There have been very few technical problems up to now. "I see automation as a very positive thing. I now have twice as many sows as I did at first; this could not have happened without the feeding stations and the heat detection. It saves me a lot of time. " Cuijpers now has more time for other things, both on and off the farm. "It only takes me half an hour to run my morning checks. Then I have time to have breakfast with the children, and I can spend the rest of the day in the farrowing house and the covering shed. That 's where it all happens, after all. "

Technical result
And that is paying off. With the new sow shed and a new insemination area, the number of weaned piglets per sow rose from 24.5 to 29, and the percentage of sows returning to oestrus was halved. "There 's more space, and it should be possible to wean 30 piglets. That proves to me that a group can work well. You have to make it pay, and if it works properly you get more pleasure from your work too. "

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