BPEX blog

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.