Demonstration project 2019-22: Optimal weaning management: targeted coaching to improved health status

Rural Development Programme

Project description

Through this demo project, we want to focus on identifying the risk factors and improving the critical points at weaning. The aim is to optimise the weaning period, which is often difficult, with the ultimate goal of improving the performance and health status of the farm. All this without using preventive antibiotics or therapeutic doses of zinc oxide in the feed. To do this, we will use the PDCA principle (Plan, Do, Check, Act) that is already successfully applied in various sectors. By familiarising livestock farmers with this management tool, they learn to critically examine their operational management on a regular basis, to identify working points, make adjustments and re-evaluate them. In this way, adjustments are made gradually, clearly and realistically and it does not become an insurmountable list of work points. Use can be made of existing digital tools such as existing planner apps that can be customised for the pig farmer.

After extensive literature research, DGZ and Inagro have drawn up a weaning tool which identifies the critical points of the weaning period and which has been validated on farms which already successfully wean without antibiotics. This weaning tool not only takes into account the act of weaning itself, but also the extensive management of sows and piglets7, the external and internal biosecurity of the farm8,9, feed management, drinking water quality and housing2. This weaning tool will be used as a start to show where the critical working points of the farm lie. Based on the outcome of the tool, one critical work point can then be identified. Next, in consultation with the pig farmer, three action points are linked to this work point with a deadline. These are formulated in SMART (Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, Time-bound) terms and are then followed up. Afterwards, the action carried out is evaluated and the next critical point of work can be looked at again. By repeating this cycle, the farmer learns to take a critical look at his management, to evaluate it, to adjust it and to evaluate it again. This principle will be implemented under the guidance of the partners at 15 pig farms that have indicated their intention to improve their weaning management.

The objective is to introduce the available planner apps based on the experiences on these 15 farms to the pig farmers as a tool to improve the overall health status of their farms by tackling the critical work points. At the same time, these 15 companies act as ambassadors for the sector and their experiences with PDCA and the changes they have made in their management will serve as a source of inspiration for their fellow pig farmers. Throughout the entire project, there will be frequent communication with the entire pig sector. We will approach pig farmers, but also veterinarians and other parties involved in the farm businesses, in a practical and accessible way.


Prof. Jeroen Dewulf

Department of Internal Medicine, Reproduction and Population Medicine

Phone number: +32 9 264 75 43 


Prof. Dirk Fremaut

Department of Animal Sciences and Aquatic Ecology

Phone number: +32 9 240 90 01