BPEX blog

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Super Six - comparing pig unit performance

We have put together a farm case study showing how one pig unit’s performance compares to the Super Six Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on the BPEX website.

It includes notes on the unit’s management practices and what contributes to its performance. Good record keeping is essential to pinpoint which areas of performance to prioritise and to monitor progress.

The KPIs section on the BPEX website uses Agrosoft data and allows producers to make comparisons between their business and the average, top third and top 10% of producers. It's a straightforward way to review the most important areas of pig unit performance

There is information for indoor breeding herds, outdoor breeding herds, rearing herds 7-35kg, finishing herds 35-110kg and combined rearer-finisher herds 7-110kg.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Don’t let draughts affect growing pigs

Draught is one of the things that can impact on lying behaviour and vice. Consultant John Chambers had a good discussion about this with stockmen at the latest Stockman Development North training session.

It’s important to get the growing pig’s environment right and it's easy to check for undesirable draught in your buildings. John recommended purchasing an inexpensive smoke test kit. He has found one option from Draegar, details below, and there are others available.

Part number: CH00216
Draeger Safety UK Ltd., Ullswater Close, Kitty Brewster Industrial Estate, Blyth, Northumberland NE24 4RG
Tel: 01670 35 28 91

Monday, 20 June 2011

Leadership in the North

Eight pig unit supervisors received leadership awards at the end of the first BPEX leadership programme for the North and Midlands.

Their training, on the BPEX/Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Development Programme, has helped them boost pig productivity and staff motivation on their units.

A special student of the year award went to Dean Brammer who has been recently promoted to manage one of Midland Pig Producers’ units at Branston, Lincolnshire. He said: “The course has made a real difference to me in my new role. It’s helped me communicate better with my team and helped get us working more efficiently together.”

George Trowsdale is assistant manager for Dent Ltd on their outdoor unit near Malton. “The numbers of pigs born alive have gone up and mortality is also down since I started the course. I think it’s mainly through better planning and organisation and I’m also more confident discussing tasks and routines with staff to help us get better results.

“The six training days on the course also gave us chance to talk to other managers. It’s useful to hear how they do things on their units.”

The ILM course is designed for anyone responsible for leading people or who will take on the responsibility in the near future. The training is provided by Alistair Gibb of Cedar Associates.
Contact Lis Ravn for information on future courses: 07891 656 784 or by email.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Stressful spring for boars

The hot, dry spring has highlighted the issue of heat stress in pigs which can cause fertility problems in boars as well as sows.

To help pig producers avoid this problem, we have published our latest 2TS Action for Productivity fact sheet on preventing and managing heat stress in boars.

The main concern currently is how heat stress can affect working boars’ fertility rates and render them less fertile for a period as long as eight weeks. If body temperature is raised by as little as 2°C it can interfere with sperm production and lead to a reduced number of sperm.

Air temperatures above 23°C can cause heat stress so the boar searches for ways to prevent over-heating – and temperatures have already reached 27°C this spring. Measures producers can take reduce the effects of hot weather include:

- Shade and wallows – do the same for the boar as the sow
- Space – allow room for the boars to lie prone and isolate
- Little bedding – provide easier access to cool flooring/dirt etc
- Plenty of water – the minimum requirement for a boar daily is 5-8 litres
- Do not encourage matings in such heats
- Additional air movement – use fans
- Feed in early mornings or evenings when cool

If you suspect that your DIY AI boars have been heat stressed, then be extra vigilant and monitor their semen quality over an eight-week period. If chaser boars have been affected by heat then consider using AI as insurance. There's more advice in 2TS Action for Productivity no.39: Heat stress in boars. Call 02476 478792 to request a hard copy.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Next stop...the Falkland Islands

This will be my last BPEX blog post as I’m heading off for pastures new this month, 8,000 miles away in the Falkland Islands!

After almost five years at BPEX, I’m taking on a new role and new challenge as agricultural advisor, genetics and animal nutrition, for the Falkland Islands Agricultural Department.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel and visit many different countries in the last year, as part of my Nuffield Scholarship, but it will be my first trip to the Falklands.

I can't explain how much I have enjoyed my time at BPEX, being part of the KT team has been a brilliant experience and meeting and working with the producers and allied industry has been motivating and a pleasure.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Sow care checklist – where to start?

A number of aspects of management can go wrong during the cycle of the sow and have subsequent effects on performance. At Oxford and Salisbury Pig Training Groups we used our ‘Care of the Sow’ workshops to discuss culling policy, reasons for losses and to design a check list for new starters in the dry sow department.

For the checklist, some people chose to concentrate on the paddocks first, including water, fences and hut damage. Some favoured giving clear instructions on what to look for in the pigs themselves, pointing out that alarm bells should always ring when one pig is doing something different from the rest. Other people thought the farm routine should be stated first, to paint a picture of what is expected and how things work.

We also discussed the term ‘lameness’ and some of its causes, which can range from flinty ground to incorrect boar sizes, poor space allowance at weaning and mycoplasma arthritis.