BPEX blog

Monday, 11 January 2016

Nigel Penlington, Head of Knowledge Transfer, Research and Development

I’m on a steep learning curve right now having just taken over in my new role and the biggest challenge is getting my head round everything that is going on.

I have been aware of much of what happens within KT, R&D but not necessarily the fine points and intricacies which are so important for decision-making.

Added to that, there are internal changes to help AHDB evolve to offer more efficient delivery and an improved focus. I am really keen to build on the reputation AHDB Pork already has with levy payers and to help them understand the value it brings, its strengths and find opportunities for us to improve.

My background is more than just pigs so I can bring a broader understanding. I began by doing an HND in Agricultural Engineering at Harper Adams College – as it then was – before going to Saudi Arabia for three years, ending up as farm manager on a 3,000-acre holding.

On my return, I did an MSc in irrigation and drainage, then worked for a land drainage and utility firm before joining ADAS where I was a mechanisation consultant for 13 years before joining BPEX and developing the environment programme.

I am always keen to hear from producers, processors and anybody in the industry on what AHDB Pork is, or should be, doing, so please feel free to add a comment to this blog and I’ll pick it up.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

AHDB in Brussels – latest on food waste by Kathy Roussel

What happens in Brussels can have a dramatic effect on producers and processors in the UK so AHDB Pork contributes to running an office there. The team and I spend our time keeping tabs on what’s happening. Here we take a look at report on food waste.

Every year we throw away or waste about a third of all the food produced globally says the Food and Agriculture Organisation – around 1.3 billion tonnes! In the EU alone that amounts to 100 million tonnes and, if nothing is done, that could rise to more than 120 million tonnes by 2020. This is clearly not sustainable.
Taking a look behind the figures, the reasons for food waste vary according to the type of country. In medium and high income countries, such as Europe, they relate mainly to consumer behaviour.

An EU survey actually showed the majority of people emphasised individual responsibility when it came to ways to reduce food waste. Almost two thirds said better shopping and meal planning would contribute to the reduction of waste. Europeans also highlighted the important role of economic factors in the food supply chain, identifying the responsibility of shops and retailers, the hospitality and food service sectors as well as food manufacturers.

The Commission has published a Circular Economy Package. Contrary to what was expected, the EU does not set specific EU targets on food waste reduction. However, among the considered measures (a common EU methodology to measure food waste, better communication of date marking labelling), they shared their intention to clarify EU legislation relating to waste. This may be an interesting news for the meat sector. The Commission already made it clear that the food waste prevention strategy cannot, in any circumstances whatsoever, jeopardise the safety of the food and feed chain. It will therefore be interesting to see how future initiatives in this area will be seeking to clarify and, wherever possible, lift any barriers which prevent the safe use and reuse of food in the food and feed chains.  

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.