BPEX blog

Monday, 28 February 2011

Health challenge: protecting your pyramid

I asked producers to critique what they do on their units at three brand new workshops on biosecurity: 'Protecting your pyramid'. Between them they were responsible for producing more than 21,000,000kg of pork per annum and all went away armed with extra information on how to keep their herds protected. The workshops focused on protecting herd health and key bio-security principles to, firstly, stop disease entering the unit and, secondly, stop its spread around the unit.

Areas the groups identified as being the most inconsistent, where biosecurity can go wrong, are: the distance between isolation facilities and the main unit, shared equipment and acclimatisation.
Practical sessions on rodent control, loading facilities and visitor policy were discussed alongside other important issues BPEX is working with producers to manage, such as Salmonella and notifiable diseases.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Skills to be proud of

Pig industry staff are an impressive and dedicated bunch. Between them they have been awarded more than 2500 Certificates of Competence over the last three years, for basic stockmanship, pig husbandry and vet and med. It’s further testament to the industry’s commitment to developing the right skills on farm, to deliver the high health, welfare and production standards we are proud of. Well done to all who have completed training so far or are currently working towards their certificates.


The Certificates of Competence are practical, relevant and can be delivered and assessed on farm. They have been designed by pig producers for pig producers and have removed the need for off-site training courses, biosecurity concerns and lots of paper-based assessments.

For more information, please click here or contact Helen Brookes at BPEX: 07891 214335 or helen.brookes@bpex.org.uk

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Typical straw usage?

The Knowledge Transfer team is asked questions on all kinds of pig production topics. We recently received an email from a producer wondering if we have any benchmark figures for straw use...

Any thoughts on this? See Helen's response and add your comments below, or use the 'Ask BPEX' button opposite.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Optimal time to fast before slaughter

Food withdrawal prior to slaughter helps to reduce cross-contamination with salmonella and other organisms at the abattoir. If a pig has a full gut and the bowel opens during or just after slaughter, the faecal matter will go into the polisher and the water tank. The next pig going through will then get leftovers spread on its surface.

If the faecal matter was infected with salmonella it means that, instead of just one pig with salmonella on the carcase, it can spread to other potentially clean carcases. Staff and equipment handling the contaminated carcase could also contribute its spread.

BUT it is important to get the length of the pre-slaughter fasting period right. When a pig is fasted it will mobilize body tissues to provide energy for maintaining the vital functions of the body.
Fasting pigs for 24 hours is too long as it can result in a loss of 3.8% of their initial liveweight and 2.1% of carcase weight, compared with a fasting period of only four hours. The optimal fasting period is 8–12 hours.

For more information, please click here and download 2TS Action for Productivity no. 7: Factors affecting killing out percent.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Cost review for Cornish producers

Cornish pig producers got straight down to business, with a comparison of figures and review of costs at their first discussion group meeting of the year. All the units are indoors and have seen considerable investment over the last few years so it was pleasing, yet still surprising, to see performance had not dipped due to the inclement weather at the end of last year. Nor were there signs of seasonal infertility.

Discussion of the current lack of demand in the market quickly moved on to feed. As is the case for most other producers, this is the scariest factor. With little forward cover and no signs of feed prices dropping, the only promising sign was that pig prices would increase as demand returned to normal and supply declined. Many of the producers will be attending the BPEX and NPA risk management workshop in Exeter on 8 February.

They felt a vulnerability to factors outside the daily remit of pig production, including the exchange rate and, in the short term, more imports coming in. In the medium term, there was the view that European producers were going through the same problems, although they were going to have to face the challenge of the sow stall ban.

Next up were finishing pigs: the importance of knowing your contract maximum and minimum weights and the penalties for being outside these parameters. Also, the penalties involved with pigs being over probe. Producers still felt that ‘weight pays’ providing it is within the boundaries of the contract and very few pigs get penalised for being outside these parameters. A further challenge was finishing space and ensuring the pig was maximising its growth potential at all times without putting too much fat down.

Pete Bown was also there to discuss reasons for carcase condemnation and ran through the terminology used by the OVS (Official Veterinary Surgeon) and MHS (Meat Hygiene Service). Pete explained why pigs are being condemned and what may have caused these symptoms.

Tell us how you your business is tackling some of these challenges at the moment, either by commenting below or by contacting us direct.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Soil and water - advice from Anna

Congratulations to BPEX’s Anna Davis who has just passed her BASIS Soil and Water Management qualification. Anna is currently developing the next BPEX Soil Management plan and managing a number of environment related projects.

This qualification will help confirm BPEX as an authoritative source of information on soil for pig producers and in on-going discussions with the likes of Defra, EA and Catchment Sensitive Farming. It's also part of BPEX's commitment to training and developing its staff as a long term resource.

BPEX Environment Programme Manager Nigel Penlington said: "This is a challenging qualification to attain and Anna has done very well to achieve it."

Let BPEX know if you need advice on soil management planning. Post a comment below or contact Anna directly: anna.davis@bpex.org.uk 0247 647 8798