New Nursery Finishing Barn Construction In Quebec: Trends And Environmental Restrictions

By Yves Choinière Ing. I? Eng. Bruno Marquis, Ing. Consultants Yves Choinière Inc 256 Haut Rivière Sud St-Cksaire, QC J0L 1T0 Tél.: (514) 656-6446


Dr. Camille Moore DVM 2505 Place Guilbeault, C.P. 1313 St-Cksaire, QC J0L 1T0 Tél.: (514) 469-1089


Most of the new construction of nurseries is related to three site production. These units are owned by investors, integration groups, or by cooperatives.

Usually, independent finishing barns are constructed in order to accommodate the nurseries. However, numerous new barns are additional to existing facilities on farrow to finish farms.


Numerous off-site nurseries were build in the last two years. All of them are an element or part of an integration group system. The number of piglets per barn varies from 900 to 2,000 with up to 3,000 to 3,500 piglets per site. Some exceptionally large sites have up to 8,000 piglets subdivided into four barns.


Almost all nurseries built in the past five years were designed to accommodate piglets from 5 to 30 kg. However, since June 1996, the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture strictly applies the environmental laws which established that a piglet could be considered as such, up to a weight of 20 kg. Consequently, since June 1996, very few authorization certificate and building permits were issued for piggery construction. Now as the new law follows its course, uncertainty prevails for future construction projects.

Nursery building

Due to the new approach of three sites and specialised nursery building, completely new buildings have been developed. The same principle used for other buildings are applied here for manure disposition, building structure and material used. We pay attention to use materials that are easy to clean and disinfect, such as plastic or vinyl.

The nursery building needs to handle weaner pigs of approximately 5 kg (11 lbs) to a grower of 30 kg (66 lbs). This is an important range of weight as far as specific needs. Usually, nursery buildings are found on a specialised site. However, some producers, mainly smaller ones, had built nurseries attached to finishing barns or on the same site. With that approach, it is still possible to break the disease cycle at weaning. However, that doe snot give complete flexibility in the future in case something happens in either nursery or finishing barns.

Some questions need to be answered by the producer prior to establishing the building specifications. The first one is related to pig flow. We need to know if the goal is to use those buildings on an all-in all-out basis per room or an all-in all-out basis per building or an all-in all-out basis per site. The building will need to be adjusted based on those decisions. As far as health protection is concerned, we should try to develop a system with all-in all-out per site or at least all-in all-out per building.

Secondly, the producer needs to decide if he/she is going to use a single stage or a two stage nursery. With the use of a two stage nursery, pigs are moved once during their growth. The use of this approach reduces the total number of square feet needed. Usually the first stage (not nursery) is more adapted for early weaning (less than 10 days). In those types of buildings, utility costs are lower than in single stage nursery buildings. With the use of that approach, pigs need to be moved one more time, and for each pig movement through the building, we need to wash twice. With a two stage nursery, it is almost impossible to use the all-in all-out approach per building unless one section remains empty all the time. The use of a single stage nursery increases the total square feet per pig required. Usually, with those types of nurseries, the manpower required is lower. Those types of nurseries also require more equipment in each pen due to the fact that the need of very different age and weight of pigs needs to be accommodated.

The third question that needs to be answered is how are we going to supply the extra heat needed to the piglets? At weaning we could either keep the entire room between 30°C (86°F) and 32°C (90°F) or create a comfort zone. In United States, they usually keep the room at a higher temperature. We have been quite successful in using comfort zones (heat mate or underfloor hot water heating system) to give a temperature of 30°C (86°F) at pig level and keep the room at only 22°C-23°C (72°F-75°F).

As far as equipment is concerned, i.e. feeding system, number of pigs per pen, pen size; we are not seeing any difference between two stages of nurseries and conventional on site nurseries. Where two stage nurseries are used, we usually give 0.1 m2 (1.2 sq. ft) per pig in the first stage nursery. Pigs are kept there up to 28 to 30 days of age. After that period, they are moved to the second stage nursery where we usually give 0.27 to 0.3 m2 (3.2 to 3.5 sq. ft) per pig. Pigs remain in those nurseries for eight weeks and between 30 kg (66 lbs) and 32 kg (70 lbs). Where a single stage nursery is used, piglets are placed at 0.27 to 3 m2 (3.2 to 3.5 sq. ft) upfront. In those nurseries, it is essential to offer a comfort zone (or at least a pad) at weaning. These are needed for two weeks. We are not aware of any "standards design" for those nurseries. We will summarise what is currently used in Quebec for those types of buildings.

In the nursery, we are usually dealing with pens of 1.8 m x 2.7 m (6' x 9') to 1.8 m to 3.6 m (6' x 12'). Those pens are equipped with a comfort zone in the front. This is a solid floor with a heat source underneath. This heat is usually supplied by hot water. The size of this zone is 0.6 m x 0.9 m (2 to 3') by the width of the pen. The remaining part of the pen is fully slatting. A small nipple waterer is used at weaning. After a few weeks, this nipple can be unplugged and replaced by a more conventional nipple or a water bowl. In addition to a fence line feeder, a small trough needs to be used at weaning. Usually, pigs are fed from that trough for the first week. Recirculation ducts and chicken brooder heaters are used for supplemental heat supply. Most buildings are usually 50' to 60' wide with four rooms which are economical to build and easy to manage.


Table 1 summarises the statistics on the finishing units in Quebec. There are numerous small units but, almost 66% of the production is produced by 404 farms including the integrators. If we only consider those statistics, one would believe that the trend is to build large finishing pig complexes. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. The trend is to build numerous, small, independent finishing pig barns suited to "all-in, all-out". The number of pigs varies from 750 to 1,500 pigs per unit.

Table 1: Finishing pig farms as registered to the "Quebec income stabilization program", Quebec 1994-1995

Number of finishing pigs Number of farm % Number of pigs %
10-500 188 12 58,841 1
500-1,009 237 15 176,134 4
1,001-2,000 433 28 643,081 14
2,001-3,000 301 19 744,624 16
3,001-10,000 372 24 1,749,483 37
10,001-over 32 2 1,289,177 29
Total 1573 100 4,761,340 100

Ref: Regime des assurances agricoles du Quebec, direction du developpement , mai 1996.


In Quebec, five finishing pigs (20 to 100 kg) are considered as one animal unit (AU). Accordingly, an average of three AU/hectare is accepted. This means about 15 pigs per hectare of crop land.

In order to build a 1,000 finishing pig unit, an average of 67 hectares or 160 acres of land is necessary. (1,000 pigs/5 pigs/a.v. = 200 a.v., 200 a.v./3 hec/a.v. - 67 hectares).

Traditionally most of the land base in Quebec has been divided in sections of 50 acres up to 200 acres. Actually, most of the producers investing in the finishing pig units have this land base available for manure spreading.

Building design

There are some characteristics of new finishing pig barns:

  1. Pigs from 30 to 107 kg
  2. Floor space of 7 to 7.5 sq ft/pig
  3. 20 to 28 pigs per pen
  4. Pens of 8-9' wide by 18' to 20' deep
  5. 66% is solid floor, 6' of slatted floor at the back
  6. Mechanical scraper under the slatted floor
  7. 3' central alley
  8. Wet-dry feeders, near the central alley
  9. Naturally ventilated barns with chimneys, automatic controls for sidewall panels, independent 30 000 Btu/hr heaters

These barns work well until the temperature drops below -15 to -20°C. Below these temperatures, some problems develop with sidewall panel freezing and temperature control.

We are currently working on a research project which aims to improve the temperature control inside the barn, enhance the heat distribution and automatize the chimneys.

Numerous other producers are building mechanically ventilated barns using the same basic floor layout. The ventilation system is composed of a central air inlet, recirculation ducts, exhaust fans and electronic controls. These barns work quite well even under the coldest period of the year.


Evidently, it is not possible to identify one particular building as being "the" Quebec prototype. However, the trend is to build small independent units (750 to 1,500 head) which can be easily built under the present Quebec environmental regulation.