BPEX blog

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Post mortem points out health issues

A post-mortem can provide a lot of valuable information on pig health. At the Nottinghamshire VLA, Alan Murphy dissected a 60kg pig to show the East Midlands training club how they perform a post mortem and the range of things they look for i.e. joints, tail biting, lungs and disease that can occur in different places such as the liver. We heard that the better condition the carcase, the more useful the post-mortem will be. He also described what the vets are looking for when they're out on a unit.

Then John Richardson from Intervet gave some practical tips on injection techniques and ran through the legal requirements and safe storage of medicines.

If you're interested in Vet and Med training similar to this then let us know.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Cold snaps – thoughts from the East

The forecast is for another drop in temperature later in the week. The outdoor guys are probably better equipped for winter periods than most indoor producers. While indoor producers will lag their pipes, if it freezes within their buildings it can then be extremely difficult to get sufficient water around these units by any mechanical format.

The outdoor producers usually have the mechanical means to deliver water seven days a week when needed to all stock. Many will hire additional tractor/loaders over the winter and, in turn, extra labour can be brought in by the larger units with arable farms. Additional costs are also considered a necessity in the pre-winter months by the stocking of plumbing fittings that may also be required.

Extreme cold weather is causing headaches at abattoirs too where it has been reported on many occasions over the past couple of weeks that frozen water has meant that cleaning and disinfection of lorries has not been possible. This is clearly not ideal from an animal disease perspective and we would urge abattoirs every night during the cold bout to ensure that hosepipes don't freeze up overnight, and try and insulate exposed taps with a thermal cover.

Regarding the feeding of outdoor sows, if the ambient temperature at 15 C = base feeding level, then for every one degree C below base temperature they should be fed an additional 100gms. While I am not a nutritionist, I think the industry would develop another ration if we were to regularly face these prolonged extreme cold periods, possibly not seen since 1981.

Piglet mortality has risen over this cold spell where units were unfortunate to be batch farrowing during this period. Outdoor sows and piglets survive surprisingly well when cold, as has been shown by Dr Emma Baxter at SAC who looked at thermal images of piglets being born in outdoor farrowing arks compared to indoor sows immediately after giving birth. Snow, we can cope with but cold, wet, windy extremes are certainly conditions that pig/man can not do with and I hope we do not see.

Let us know how you have been getting on so far – coping with loading ramps, water pipes etc…

There’s some information here on coping in the extreme weather.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Hold on to our UK advantage

Slap marking is one of those routine jobs that has to be done, but it's vital to take care every time to make sure all pigs are clearly slap marked with the Defra herd mark.

UK producers have an ID advantage in the form of slap marking, but if marks are repeatedly illegible then the industry could lose this special EU derogation and would have to tag all pigs.

Make a habit of inspecting the slap marker and pins after every use, replacing any damaged parts straight away.

And if you don’t already, check the comments from the abattoir, slap marks need to be legible before and after slaughter!

For a quick refresher, see BPEX’s work instruction on slap marking.

Monday, 6 December 2010

More pig training for the Midlands

Four new training groups have got underway this winter in:
• The East Midlands
• Gloucestershire
• Shropshire (pictured left)
• The Fens

The original Midlands afternoon training group based in Northamptonshire has become such a success, that we've happily set up some more!

All pig unit staff are welcome to come along to the training sessions - they're all about best practice in pig husbandry. Some forthcoming training events for the groups include:

12 Jan, Shropshire: Establishing pregnancy
19 Jan, Midlands: Pre-weaning mortality
1 Feb, East Midlands: Gilt management
9 Feb, Gloucestershire: Establishing pregnancy

For more on similar training intiatives in other parts of England, you can go to the training pages at http://www.2ts.org.uk/.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

A future in pigs

Helen Brookes of BPEX asked for student’s opinions of the pig industry, and their potential futures within it, when she delivered a lecture to Agriculture Diploma students at Kingston Mauwood College in Dorset.

The lecture covered an overview of BPEX and the industry in its current state and went on to discuss how the courses developed by BPEX can compliment their studies and provide ideas for projects and assessments.

Many ideas were put forward by students on why the pig industry is attractive to younger people, including:

"Pig units are a lot more high tech that other livestock farms so it gives the people working on them more variation in their job.”

However, the strain to their social lives due to the biosecurity measures was a concern to them because of the movement limitations placed on both humans and pigs. They felt this could reduce the interactions they had with other pig producers and create a secluded environment.

If you would like BPEX to come to your college please contact Helen Brookes: 07891 214335.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Feed price hike - breaking even

Data analysis shows an increase of £30 a tonne in feed means 3.07 extra pigs will be required to break even.

Agrosoft is using the HandiCalc performance analysis tool to give producers a clear understanding of the possible impact of rising feed prices on:

  • the cost of production (CoP) per carcase kilogram
  • and the corresponding margin.

Performance is entered using figures such as farrowing rate, born alive and weaned per litter, post-weaning mortality, feed conversion ratio, entry and exit weights etc.

HandiCalc then applies 'what if' analyses to different scenarios. These involve incremental increases in feed price per tonne and demonstrating how improvements in performance can make a significant contribution to balancing the challenges of increased costs.

So, for example, for the UK CoP recently published in the BPEX European Cost of Production Report 2009, the break even pigs sold/sow/year would be 18.87. And it would be 21.94 with a £30/tonne additional feed increase: therefore 3.07 extra pigs would be required to break even.

It is also important to minimise feed wastage and improve feed efficiency. 2TS Action for Productivity 18: Efficient Feed Usage outlines the key areas to consider.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Finisher units measure up

One important message came through from a very busy finisher workshop in the South West: measure the changes you make to understand what your inputs are doing for pig performance.

A total of 41 finishers came along for the BPEX finisher workshop at Collumpton. Elanco really got the room thinking with an explanation of its Full Value Pig concept: weight variation is a real issue on units and some pigs are over 40kg apart at the same age.

The group started to consider their own unit and what could be happening to cause this weight disparity - deciding on the possible factors within genetics, health, environment and the seasons.

BPEX is running seven Full Value Pig projects with Elanco on farm and would like to see more. Get in touch with me or your regional Knowledge Transfer Manager if you're interested.

  • Annie Davis from the George Vet Group Pig updated us on mycoplasma arthritis and bovine TB
  • we took a look at what has come out of a BPEX PCV2 study
  • and brainstormed ways to solve tail biting!

We rounded up with a NADIS health quiz and a chat about a new concept that George Vet Group is trialling: all about checking lying area requirements versus total space requirements and understanding what feed cost is lost through pigs lying outside their thermal neutral zone.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Make sure ventilation is really working

Pig producers are looking more closely at how efficient their ventilation systems really are, having watched BPEX's Pig Unit Ventilation DVD.

Ventilation systems are usually scrutinised when a new building is put up but they must also be regularly checked and maintained throughout the life of the building. On the DVD John Chambers explains what an effective pig unit ventilation system should do and how to maintain and run it. Importantly, it provides the information and advice to help producers assess their own units and make informed decisions about ventilation.

Key points to consider include:

• The typical air flow within buildings and the problems that can result from where cold air lands
• What does pig behaviour say about the current temperature/draughts?
• Are building temperatures and outside temperatures monitored?
• Should fans have louvers over them?
• Ventilation requirements should be reviewed regularly, especially when building use or stocking level changes, for example when changing to a batch system

Free copies of the DVD are available to producers from BPEX regional Knowledge Transfer Managers or by e-mailing kt@bpex.org.uk or calling 02476 478793.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

All roads lead to China...

The way has opened for export of UK pig meat and breeding pigs to China, with two landmark agreements this week.

This means exports from approved plants can commence and it opens up the world’s largest market to UK pig producers, after a number of years’ work by BPEX in conjunction with Defra, UKTI and the Chinese authorities.

Formal agreement of the export health certificate for export of pig meat from the UK to the China has been confirmed to the UK’s Business Minister Vince Cable by the Chinese authorities.

In addition, Dr Cable has signed an agreement which re-opens the export of British breeding pigs to China. The deal is valued at around £45 million to the UK pig industry over the next five years. Dr Cable flew to China yesterday alongside Prime Minister David Cameron as part of the largest UK Government and business delegation ever to visit the Far Eastern giant.

BPEX Chairman Stewart Houston said: “This is wonderful news for the industry and something we have really been looking forward to. It will offer enormous opportunities for pig meat, particularly with a range of fifth quarter products – the parts of the carcase that command a premium in China.

“We are very grateful for the hard work and spirit of co-operation shown not only by the Chinese but also Defra’s international animal health division and the British Embassy and UKTI team in Beijing, to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion. The process did get delayed somewhat by the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2007 which temporarily halted the talks.”

And BPEX's Helen Thoday has just returned from a visit to China, where she has seen first hand how pork is produced and consumed in the country which is home to half of the world's pig population. Read more on her blog on the NPA website.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Pfizer Trainee of the Year 2010

This year's Pfizer Trainee of the Year is Kate Munro-Ashman, of Bucklebury near Reading. She is pictured above receiving her award — worth £2,500 — from environment select committee chairman Anne McIntosh.

Kate is the third female winner of the Pfizer Trainee of the Year Award, following Georgina Cherrill last year and Hazel Baker in 2004.

For more information please visit: http://www.pigworld.co.uk/Pages/Sections/ToY2010.html

Kate Ashman and runner up Helen Hooks are both benefiting from the BPEX Professional Manager Development Scheme - click here for more information.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Low-stress sows key to reproduction

Removing stress factors in gilts and sows is key to good reproductive performance. That was a clear message from Dutch pig expert Dr Nicoline Soede at this week’s Two-Tonne Sow (2TS) Focus on Breeding events, organised by BPEX.

English pig producers were keen to hear what it is that helps the Netherlands’ industry achieve an average 27 pigs weaned per sow per year. They took the chance to quiz Dr Soede and her colleagues Professor Bas Kemp and Dr Hanneke Feitsma on many aspects of reproductive management.

Nicoline emphasised that one of the most important factors for successful insemination timing and establishing pregnancy is to minimise stress and focus on ‘animal-directed’ management.

Bas Kemp explained the delicate balance between under and over feeding during early lactation and gave clear advice on the different requirements of sows and gilts. And the importance of close attention to detail was highlighted by Hanneke Feitsma, as she shared her knowledge on current and future AI technologies.

There were 190 attendees between the two events, held in Wetherby and Milton Keynes. Producer Simon Watchorn said afterwards: “It was one of the best events I’ve been to and the most I’ve ever learned. I’ll be reviewing whether there are things I can change on my own unit.”

Look out for more advice and information from the conference at www.2TS.org.uk in the next few weeks. Also check for local meetings on the events pages, where there will be more discussion of these topics.

Did you attend either of the events? Was there anything discussed you found particularly useful that you might apply to your business?

Monday, 25 October 2010

Protein to suit pigs AND the environment

Amino acid supplementation could reduce the use of soya bean meal in pig diets and help make pork production more economically and environmentally sustainable.

BPEX Head of Knowledge Transfer, Research and Development Dr Mike Varley comments on discussions between international nutritionists at a recent seminar:

It seems that more or less the complete array of supplementary amino acids is now available to deploy in pig feeding – including lysine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan – and now valine and isoleucine. This means that, if we choose to do so, we could feed all classes of pig on a starch source (cereals), a premix and pure crystalline amino acids suitably balanced.
It is also evident that for every drop of 1% in crude protein in grower / finisher feeds, we can reduce N excretion by 10% with no loss in performance.

It means that it may be economic (and strategically desirable) to reduce soya bean meal inclusions and put in the right blend of amino nitrogen and, at the same time, maintain performance levels and reduce our environmental impact. The environmental desirability of reducing protein inclusions in general pig feeds is self evident.

What we also discussed was the welfare implications of lower protein feeds where the growing animal or the breeding female is on a low-protein / balanced amino acid feed formulation. We could argue that we have improved the welfare of these animals, with less metabolic pressure and less demand on the excretion systems. Most of the nutritionists present accepted this argument. If we are ultimately looking for all the cards to play in differentiating British pork and pork products, then our nutritional programmes could also play their part in this way.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The ‘natters that matter’ in the East

Our first ‘Pig East’ e-newsletter has just gone out to producers in the East, to update on important matters in the region. Training is a big priority, so it includes full details of all pig clubs and training events happening in the East this autumn.

As one pig manager responded after reading Pig East: “We can see a difference between our top and bottom herds in the number of pigs produced per sow. Staff can make or break a unit, so any way we can help motivate to get the best results is a bonus to all of us.”

Also, everyone should make sure they get recognised for the training they do by registering on the Pig Industry Professional Register (PIPR).

All who are interested in any type of training can get in contact direct or go to the training section on the website.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Remember to register - 2TS breeding events

Remember to register for one of the two Two-Tonne Sow (2TS) Focus on Breeding events at the end of October. These free events are open to producers across the country, giving the chance to discuss sow reproduction and management with international experts Professor Bas Kemp and Dr Nicoline Soede, both from the Animal Science Dept at Wageningen University, and Dr Hanneke Feitsma from IPG Netherlands.

The programme:
  • Insemination strategies – Nicoline Soede
  • Future AI technologies – Hanneke Feitsma
  • Second litter drop syndrome – Bas Kemp
  • Establishing pregnancy – Bas Kemp
  • Stress and reproduction – Nicoline Soede
  • Lactation – Bas Kemp
  • Panel: Questions and Answers

Dates and venues:

  • The Racecourse, York Road, Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS22 5EJ, Wednesday 27 October, 14:30 - 19:00.
  • Stadium:mk, Stadium Way, West Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK1 1ST, Thursday 28 October, 13:00 - 17:30.

A hot buffet meal will be served at the end of both days. Attendance is free and places will be allocated on a strictly first come, first served basis. Producers will be given priority. To reserve a place, please email details to: clancy.smith@bpex.org.uk or telephone: 0247 647 8792. Directions to the venue will be sent to delegates before the event.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Brazil: obsessed with feed conversion

I'm currently in Brazil on my latest trip for my Nuffield Scholarship studies.

The Nutron Group welcomed me into their offices with the observation that there is growth in the global population and they want to be part of feeding the population in a transparent and sustainable way.

Okay, that sounds familiar. So where is Brazil now? Brazil has 2.4m sows, a growth of 100,000 in six years. Seventy percent of the pigs are in the three southern states.

They are obsessed with feed conversion ratio. One co-op even pays on feed conversion ratio, which does focus everyone on waste, and so they have these neat little disks round the feeders which means waste is minimised.

The feed conversion ratio of the Aurora co-op with 100,000 sows is 3.27 on a 85kg deadweight carcass. I questioned them on this obsession with feed conversion ratio for payment of the co-op farms and also how they measure it.

The measurement is simple. The co-op knows how much food is delivered and it knows what the weight of all the carcasses are so "you do the math".

Read more in my blog on the National Pig Association website.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Pig producers: how to stay in profit

A French pig farmer has revealed to English producers how he stayed in profit during the 2007 feed-price hike. Benoit Cuvillier explained how risk management tools allowed him to cope with the sharp increase both this year and in 2007.

At a workshop organised by BPEX, he told pig producers, processors and feed compounders: “Using financial tools puts me in the driver’s seat by helping me manage the price of my major input, feed and my output, pigs.”
The group quickly agreed to invite French price risk management firm Offre et Demande Agricole (ODA) to a series of regional BPEX and NPA workshops this autumn, to explain to more pig producers how Benoit manages price volatility.

Importantly, producers need to be trained in price risk management and fully understand which tools to use and when. But the tools are not a solution in themselves. Equally as important for Benoit, is being part of a small group of like-minded farmers which meets monthly. They share ideas on volatility in the market and discuss ways to limit the impact on their businesses. Then it is down to the individual producers to decide when and how to reduce their risk.

After the regional workshops, BPEX plans to run four three-day training sessions with ODA for English producers interested in forming feed price strategy clubs. The cost of training is around £1000 per person but ODA can secure grant funding to reduce it to £500.
The futures and options markets for grain are among the risk management tools available and the key is for producers to keep fully informed of what is happening in the market place and be able to analyse their level of risk.

ODA’s Alexis Pouye, leading the workshop, said: “Futures markets and other risk management tools are used to secure the feed price, maintain control and avoid major losses, as part of a long-term strategy for profitable business.”

It will also be important to engage with processors and retailers on the benefits these tools may bring to the whole supply chain.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

New arrivals

We have just welcomed two new faces into the Knowledge Transfer team to cover maternity leave.

Jen Waters, who joins following a masters degree at Leeds University, is filling in for Lis Ravn as Knowledge Transfer Manager for the North of England.
07969 792022

Helen Brookes is looking after skills development and training on behalf of Tess Howe. Helen worked previously for breeding company Innovis.
07891 214335

And congratulations to both Lis and Tess, who gave birth within 24 hours of each other! In the blue corner, Lis and Stephen had baby Thomas on the 18th September and, in the pink corner, Tess and Matt had Elouise on the 19th September. All doing well.

Monday, 27 September 2010

High standards of AI improve performance

We've produced a one-page summary on the BPEX AI Standard, which is now available to download here. It's a reminder of what the Quality Standard programme includes, the time invested in it over the last few years and the key points farmers should be aware of.
To try to improve the competitiveness of the English pig industry, BPEX and the NPA recognised that the industry needed to focus on improving reproductive performance and spread the costs of production over more pigs. The standard includes 'best practice' at each step of the production processes for collection and preparation of semen.
The five main British pig breeding companies (ACMC, Hermitage Seaborough, JSR Genetics, PIC, Rattlerow) all worked with BPEX and the NPA for 12 months to develop the BPEX AI Quality Standard, which was launched in September 2006.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Viability of small scale AD

BPEX has launched an exciting new Photo Diary following the progress of a new farm-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) unit being installed at Cockle Park Farm, University of Newcastle. The AD plant will be fed on a combination of pig slurry, cattle slurry, FYM and vegetable waste from a local vegetable packer.
BPEX hopes that this demonstration and research site will show that small-scale AD plants can be a viable option for small and medium-sized farmers who want to invest in renewable energy.

Follow this link to visit our AD photo diary and follow its progress: http://www.bpex.org/KTRandD/environmentHub/ADPhotoDiary.aspx

If anyone has any questions on farm-scale AD, please feel free to comment below or contact Anna Davis at BPEX for more information and advice.

024 7647 8798

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Make pigs at home in the farrowing house

It’s important to make sure the farrowing room is clean and comfortable before sows go in. And, once they’ve farrowed, regular checks on the piglets’ progress and environment are a must.
Out on farm with staff at Ling Farm near Driffield, we went round the farrowing accommodation and discussed some of the priorities.
In between batches, the farrowing room is washed and disinfected and drying is equally important to make sure the cleaning and disinfection is effective. Plus it’s warm and dry for the sows coming in.
On farrowing days, spending more time in the farrowing rooms is well justified, as all piglets are checked daily and can be given extra care if needed. Staff can also monitor and adjust heat pad and room temperature. Over-heated pads can not only affect piglet lying behaviour, but also counteract the cooler room temperature set for the sows. It’s worth buying min/max thermometers for all rooms and logging the temperature.
For more advice, click here to download 2TS Action for Productivity sheets no. 14: Newborn management and no. 24: Improving KPIs pre-weaning.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Pigs popular at college

Kingston Maurward College in Dorset has offered a pig production unit to its second year NDA students again this year and it's great to see that half of them (11/23) have chosen to study it.

They have a new member of staff, John Lockett, to teach the unit and he is organising several pig farm visits and some visiting speakers. I will be talking to the group about what BPEX does and what opportunities there are for them in the pig industry in the future.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Comparing performance figures online

The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) section on the Market Intelligence area of the BPEX website has been completely revamped and updated. So now producers can add their own performance figures to compare their units against the average.Using Agrosoft data, figures will be available for indoor breeding herds, outdoor breeding herds, rearing herds 7-35kg, finishing herds 35-110kg and combined rearer-finisher herds 7-110kg.

Click here to go to the KPI area.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Farrowing checks made easy

We've just designed a 2TS Farrowing Disc to put beside sow pens during farrowing. It'll make monitoring sows’ progress at farrowing a lot easier - and it's free. There are three coloured circles on the disc, one to mark the time over the course of 12 hours, the second to record how many piglets were born alive at the time they were last checked and the third to mark how many piglets were born dead.

There are three movable arrows to show the sow’s latest progress. Each time the farrowing sow is checked, the arrows can be quickly adjusted on the disc so that all staff can see exactly how the farrowing is going and decide if or when to intervene.

Attention to detail during farrowing is essential to get newborn piglets off to a good start and it has a major influence on overall litter productivity, which is one of the key focus areas for producers aiming for the 2TS target.

There is also a space at the bottom of the disc to write additional notes, such as use and timing of inducement, interventions or treatments. The disc can either be hung above the farrowing pen on a string with a bulldog clip or attached to the pen side somewhere visible and easily accessible. After each sow has finished farrowing, the disc can be moved to the next farrowing sow and it is useful to have several discs in each farrowing house. Email kt@bpex.org.uk to order them.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Lighting in the farrowing house

We know that the temperature requirements of piglets and sows in the farrowing house are quite different but what about the different light requirements of sows and those who work with them? Defra states that pigs in buildings with no natural light should have at least 40 lux of supplementary light for a minimum of 8 hours per day.However, 40 lux does not provide adequate lighting for staff to observe pigs in detail and therefore it is harder to achieve a high standard of farrowing house management.

Click here for more information on the level of lighting needed for staff to work effectively as well as addressing the sow's needs. See if it can make a difference to unit productivity.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Do you have a success story?

The Knowledge Transfer (KT) team is looking for producers to step up and feature in case studies - to show how they achieve success in some of the most important areas of gilt production. Seeing what other units do is always interesting and the art of gilt management varies between most units. We are very interested in talking to anyone:

  • With units that use boars for first service followed by AI, achieving good numbers born

  • With units where they feel they have a successful system buying in gilts and successful system breeding their own gilts

  • Who does not get a second litter drop

It is important that the information we provide is practical and relevant and being able to share your experiences on farm is key. Please contact your Regional KT Manager or Helen Thoday on 07973 710202 or helen.thoday@bpex.org.uk.