BPEX blog

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Katja Stoddart, Health and Welfare Projects Co-ordinator

I am passionate about the English pig industry, which some people find surprising given that I come from a non-farming background and a different country! (Katja hails originally from Holland: Ed)
Still, I think the English industry is progressive and dedicated and one way in which that shows is in Real Welfare. I know, it’s had a shaky introduction (believe me – I know!), but no progress is made without setbacks. No other pig-industry in the world has done something like this, so give yourselves a well-deserved pat on the back. But let’s not be complacent. Real Welfare is only useful if you act on it. Don’t just see it as a tick-box exercise, but review and discuss it. A high score I’m sure is unlikely to come as a surprise – you would have noticed a tail-biting outbreak or a disease associated with lameness and chances are you are already doing something about that. But a consistent medium score suggests there is room for improvement. It is here that the real value lies.

Have you started analysing your Real Welfare results with your vet? Please let me know how they have helped identify potential problems in the early stages.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

On-farm evaluation of carcase cooling containers

Trials are underway looking at the benefits of chilling fallen stock before collection, with cooling containers now installed and operational on two trial farms. The aim is to help improve biosecurity and rendered value of the carcase.

The collection and disposal of fallen stock represents a significant cost to pig units. In addition, on-farm storage, plus movements of fallen stock in transit between sites, can pose a serious risk to both biosecurity and the environment. This has taken on greater importance with African Swine Fever in eastern Europe and PEDv in the USA and Canada.

The carcase cooling containers are fitted with a mains-powered refrigeration unit connected with a 16amp plug and each is fitted with a meter to monitor the exact consumption.  The electricity meter will help establish the cost of running the container on the farm. Along with temperature data, it can assess how the weather impacts on costs.

AHDB Pork environment and building research coordinator Sue Rabbich said: “Before being able to recommend the system for the industry to adopt, further research will focus on quantifying the effects of storage temperature and duration upon the carcase yield, quality, odour emissions and microbial stability. The aim is to develop a more secure, cost-effective and sustainable on-farm system.”

For more information view the photostory at http://pork.ahdb.org.uk/news/photo-stories/on-farm-evaluation-of-carcase-cooling-containers/

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The importance of water

Water quality and availability are key to pig performance but are often overlooked. Pig producers should ensure they look at water supply, as well as analysing feed, when investigating any performance problems.

To ensure sufficient access to watering points, it is advisable to have more than one drinker per pen, to act as a backup if a drinker becomes blocked or broken. Producers should aim to check all drinkers are clean and working on a daily basis and check flow rates of every nipple and bite drinker regularly.

This is a simple task requiring a large measuring jug, a watch and less than a minute of time. Producers should operate the drinker for 30 seconds and note the volume of water collected in the jug. This is then doubled to give the flow rate in litres/minute; there is a table of minimum flow rates for different weights of pig on the BPEX factsheet, Action for Productivity 16: Water supply.

It’s good practice to check flow rate in the end pen when the building is full of pigs, to see how the water system can cope when most of the drinkers are being used. Flow rate can be adjusted if needed and producers should seek advice if they’re not sure how to. 

Water hygiene is a critical factor for pigs so bowl drinkers and troughs should be checked on a daily basis and cleaned as necessary. The complete water line, including drinkers, pipe work and header tanks should also be regularly cleaned and flushed through, ie between batches.

Microbiological, physical and chemical factors can all affect water quality and, if there is any doubt concerning quality, samples should be sent for analysis. 

For more information, download the factsheet Action for Productivity 16: Water supply here and view short video clips from the BPEX Practical Pig App here

Monday, 2 February 2015

Assess options for pig building investments

Optimising the environment in which pigs are reared and finished is important for maximising health and productivity. However, with profit margins tight for many pig producers, investment in pig housing isn’t always top of the agenda.

BPEX has run a couple of study tours for English producers, aiming  to present them with different options for ventilation and slurry management systems, focusing on how they could help enhance English  pig productivity and, at the same time, reduce ammonia emissions and their impact on the environment.

Thomas Burling, BPEX building and environment business support says that, to date, the study tours have provided really valuable information for the development of the English pig industry. “They’ve given producers and industry experts the chance to see, first-hand, systems which are less commonly seen in England, that  producers could  introduce  to boost production.

“A well-ventilated building can help reduce the outbreak and spread of disease.  It’s therefore  beneficial that our producers are aware of the latest technologies available, particularly with regard to ventilation systems and also the impacts of new regulations placed on ammonia emissions,” he adds. “Ammonia is becoming an ever-more prevalent topic due to EU targets.

The aim of a BPEX trip to Flanders, a region where tight environmental legislation already exists, was to assess what English pig producers could learn from the Flemish system.
Another study tour to Ireland saw English producers and BPEX team members investigate how producers have adopted building technologies to improve ventilation.

Click here to view the BPEX Live webinar with photos and findings from these trips. 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Novel alternative to classroom learning

BPEX is encouraging producers to try out its Practical Pig App as a simple and free way to help build practical skills on pig units. Some stockmen don’t always feel that comfortable in a classroom environment and can struggle to learn but producers are finding the app provides an interactive and engaging way to learn on farm with someone they know.

Managers and staff can use the app in situ out on the unit, via a smart phone, tablet or by viewing the app’s video clips on the office PC.The app now has nearly 100 short video clips that demonstrate practical techniques, covering breeding and wean-to-finish systems, both indoor and outdoor.

The clips explain not only how tasks are done but also why they are done in a certain way and what impact that can have on pig productivity. The app is ideal for supervisors to watch with their stockmen, either out on the unit or in the staffroom during tea break – so they can highlight key points and explain them in the context of their particular farm.

If there are pig management techniques producers would like to be added to the app, please let the BPEX knowledge transfer team know at kt@bpex.ahdb.org.uk; it’s a dynamic video library that can be built to suit the industry’s needs.

Go to: practicalpig.bpex.org.uk or play.google.com or www.apple.com and search for BPEX Practical Pig App.


Monday, 12 January 2015

Catch up online with pig producer event presentations

Videos of all the speakers at the BPEX Regional Producer Events are available to catch up with online. The programme featured presentations on how to improve key aspects of pig production management at every stage of the cycle from insemination through to sale, in order improve the pig meat output for every square metre of the unit. 

The events identified key aspects of pig management from breeding through to finishing where changes can be made to improve output. It requires a combination of a number of things; there’s no silver bullet.

The presentations and on-farm video footage offer plenty of practical take-home messages for people who work with the pigs day to day.

In the breeding herd, the speakers covered what makes the biggest difference to weaned pig quality and how to manage the small pig at weaning.

The ‘growth challenge’ in the finishing herd was also addressed and the programme concluded with a discussion of the costs per kg of pig meat produced and the importance of routine data collection and analysis.

To watch the presentations, click here 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Why stockmen should be there at farrowing

Being present to monitor farrowing is key to helping the newborn piglet get a good start and reducing piglet mortality rates. Newborn management is an important factor in achieving one extra pig weaned per sow per year, which is one of the key targets BPEX is helping producers with this year.

Newborn piglets are poorly equipped to keep warm immediately after birth as the energy reserves to produce body heat (glycogen stored in the liver) are limited. A combination of factors means that piglets often become chilled: their small size means they lose heat fast, a lack of brown fat means there’s no internal heat source, they have little surface fat and no hair (no insulation) and they’re born wet with birth fluids (further chilling). Piglets are also born with no immunity and can only get this from colostrum soon after birth.

Producers could consider altering routines or rotas to provide cover at farrowing time or discuss with their vet the practicalities of using products to promote farrowing during the daytime, when the stockman can be present.

Colostrum is the ‘first milk’ and an essential source of energy, nutrients and immunity for the piglet.
It is critical for development of the piglets’ own immune system and optimum lifetime performance. Producers should maximise colostrum intake in the first six hours after birth. Beyond 24 hours is too late as the piglets’ intestines can no longer absorb the large antibodies found in colostrum.

Split suckling, assisted suckling and hand feeding colostrum are all options to help ensure colostrum intake.

For more information: 

Watch the BPEX Regional Producer Events presentations on optimising weaned pig quality

View short video clips from the BPEX Practical Pig App