Livestock News

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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Automated milk cup boosts number of piglets weaned at the sow


Arriving in the UK late last year, the Opticare Automix from Zarkos-Smith Associates (also known as Swinco internationally) has already proven popular with farmers, as it allows larger litters to stay with the sow without being labour-intensive.

Opticare Automix is a fully automated cup system that supports piglets on the sow, from just after birth until weaning. As a result, pig producers can boost the numbers weaned off of the sow, minimising the need to foster, whilst also increasing piglet weight, Zarkos-Smith says.

Since the product’s official UK launch in September 2019, the company says UK pig producers have been particularly impressed with the labour savings and attention to detail in terms of hygiene improvements.

As sows are producing larger litters due to improvements in genetics, the Automix’s ultimate goal is to support a larger number of piglets on the sow without being labour-intensive – a welcome feature as finding skilled labour becomes increasingly difficult.

The system has been in use in the Netherlands and Ireland for the past few years, and is a fully automated version of the previous, manual Opticare system, which has been on the market for nearly six years. The four unique features of the Automix include continuous fresh liquid feed; ease of work; unique feed compositions and a complete package of installation, practical support and Opticare product range.

Mixing Opticare products in small, fresh quantities increases feed intake as the product maintains a constant temperature, has an improved shelf life in the feed line, is highly palatable and there is less chance of acidification. Ease of working means no more manual feeding, fewer mistakes as the system is fully automatic, and improved hygiene thanks to the automated cleaning system.

Fresh feed is produced on demand, one litre at a time and the machine is robust with an unbreakable cup and patented nipple.

The Opticare Milk, Preshake and Porridge feeds are all suitable for the Automix system. They contain a unique composition of nutrients and raw materials, resulting in improved gut health and lower feed conversion, as well as stability, shelf life and taste.

Advantages at weaning include heavier, more uniform piglets; a healthier and more developed gut; fewer dropouts and a higher number of weaned piglets. After weaning, producers will also see fewer dropouts as well as better postweaning growth; healthier piglets; and better developed intestines, leading to less diarrhoea and negative gut bacteria.

Investment in the system is generally recovered within a year, but ROI can be calculated for individual farms


  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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