BPEX blog

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Stockman facebook group

We’ve created a new Facebook group specifically for pig stockmen. Log-in to your account at www.facebook.com and search for ‘BPEX Stockman Development’ to join the group.
It is for all pig stockmen to help improve knowledge and share ideas with others around the country – linked directly to the BPEX Stockman Development and Stockman Plus courses. The group page will highlight workshop, relevant videos and course content, photo stories and allow discussions.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Piglet nurseries and night checks

Have a look at the latest BPEX photo story to see pictures from East Anglian producer Robin Brice’s unit. It includes a home-designed ‘piglet nursery’ and shows how night checks in the farrowing house are helping to reduce mortality and piglet performance.

Comment below or contact me directly if you have any thoughts, questions or are doing anything similar.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

How creep can help save feed costs

Creep feeding pigs is one of several ways to reduce overall feed costs, discussed by nutritionist Dr Steve Jagger from ABN during our latest live online workshop.

Steve said that: ”Starter feed for pre-weaning piglets is small proportion of all feed costs at 4% and the improved growth post-weaning means it is well worth it.

“One trial showed that piglets eating 4.55kg each of starter feed are worth £1.21 more per pig, as margin over feed, than piglets eating just 3.89kg each.”

This equated to a saving of £266 per tonne of overall feed costs, because the pigs’ feed conversion efficiency, growth rate and value at slaughter were improved, without intakes of grower feed having to increase significantly in the later stages.

Steve continued to show how priorities change at different stages between birth and slaughter. “It is important to know the growth curve for your particular unit. For, example, there are major differences in dietary requirements in the late finishing stage, especially when taking pigs to higher slaughter weights, so producers could consider a late finishing diet.

“We should also be feeding pigs according to current, achieved performance at each stage. High specification diets can have a lot higher potential than is actually being achieved. Once you’ve assessed requirements you can adjust the feeding programme, try an alternative diet or maybe increase the number of diets. The aim is to reduce oversupply of nutrients to therefore reduce feed costs and improve efficiency.”

Steve concluded with how important it is to measure growth performance and feed usage. “There should be a continual cycle of measurement and improvement.”

If you have any questions or thoughts on this, please use the comments box below and, to find out more about more, download the presentation and listen to the workshop here

Friday, 23 November 2012

Finisher Challenge champions

Congratulations to Chris Leamon, overall national winner of the 2TS Finisher Challenge and winner in the east.

Chris improved his finisher herd’s FCR by 24%, average daily gain by 10.5% and mortality by 28%. He has a 320-sow breed-to-finish unit in Essex and uses a liquid feeding system.

During the Challenge, Chris decided to improve pig flow and reduce the number of movements postweaning from four moves down to two, for most pigs. The change in flow has also allowed all rooms to be all-in, all-out and Chris is now able to clean and disinfect all rooms between batches.
Chris has also upgraded some of his old grower accommodation, as he needed more weaner accommodation, and now can wean into those rooms too. Pigs are then thinned down and gradually moved to fully-slatted grower-finisher accommodation where they stay until slaughter. All pigs remain in the same group from weaning through to slaughter.

Another change Chris made was to increase the dry matter of his feed.

Ian Juffs was the regional Challenge winner in the south and Philip Sanderson was the winner in the north. Click here for more.

Monday, 19 November 2012

High-performance buildings: one producer’s view

Richard Smith, former production manager at Bedfordia Livestock, told producers at our 2TS Focus on Finishing conferences about what they had done and learned while building a new finisher unit. 

Here are some key considerations he discussed for other producers thinking about updating or building new finisher pig accommodation.

  • They allowed 10 metres between each building to help facilitate good ventilation and installed automatically controlled natural ventilation (ACNV)
  • They chose fully-slatted plastic flooring for the ‘stage one’ and ‘stage two’ finisher pens but, with hindsight, would now put concrete slats in the ‘stage two’ pens for pigs of 35kg upwards
  • Consider feeding liquid co-products
  • Their liquid feeding system has probes to monitor feed usage and help keep it flowing and fresh
  • Operate an ‘all in, all out’ system
  • Plan pig flow well in advance with enough pig places to allow for genetic improvement in the breeding herd.

Go to www.bpex.org.uk/news/events/focusonfinishing to view Richard’s full presentation. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

‘Virtual pig farming’ course – the next challenge

We’ve devised a new Stockman Plus course for this autumn to build on the practical skills and industry knowledge gained in the Stockman Development scheme and/or their previous practical experience. The more advanced course will include problem solving exercises which will be applied to a virtual farm to allow trainees to see the outcome of decisions taken.

Following the success of the Stockman Development courses run across all regions, we feel that these trainees are ready for this as their next challenge!

The Stockman Development and BPEX Institute of Leadership and Management courses are also back for a third year.

The Stockman Development course combines training in practical pig husbandry with visits to feed mills and abattoirs.

The Institute of Leadership and Management course is to help supervisors and managers improve their people management and build their confidence when leading others. Specially-selected modules enable trainees to learn different management techniques and work together to decide on the best ways to handle various situations.
All three courses are flexible: participants can choose particular sessions to attend, subject to availability, or sign up for the whole course.

For more information and how to register, producers should call me or their local BPEX knowledge transfer manager or BPEX assistant skills manager Samantha Bowsher: 07976 980753 or samantha.bowsher@bpex.ahdb.org.uk

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Weighing pigs is worth the effort

More pig producers should ‘bite the bullet’ and weigh their growing pigs to cut lost earnings, was the conclusion from our 2TS Focus on Finishing conferences.

Joao Cavaco Rodrigues, swine business unit manager at Elanco, said that up to 30% of pigs can fail to reach target weight at slaughter, whether that is because of mortality, culls or poor growth resulting in ‘light’ pigs. 

Because losses happen gradually, producers are often not even aware of them and it can be difficult to pinpoint where in the cycle they occur.

Weighing pigs at each stage of production provides the information to spot trends and issues. There is extra labour involved in weighing pigs, but it doesn’t have to be every pig in every batch. Producers can get valuable information by weighing just one group of pigs at each stage as a one-off exercise or an exercise they do each year, for example.

You have to diagnose the problem first in order to find the solution. Once producers have identified when and where performance is dipping, they can target changes to that part of the system to improve health and growth efficiency.

All the speakers’ presentations, including regional pig producers’ can be downloaded here.  

Friday, 26 October 2012

Low-cost ways to stop disease in its tracks

The 2TS Focus on Finishing conferences are well underway this week. One of the speakers, Yolande Seddon, is a research fellow at the Canadian Prairie Swine Centre and has highlighted the problem of subclinical disease: it can’t actually be seen and yet it can cause considerable growth losses in the finishing herd.
BUT, the good news is there is a lot that can be done (and at a low cost) to reduce the impact of subclinical disease.

Monitoring water consumption, using simple health scores – like recording the amount of coughing – and weighing pigs regularly can all identify trends.

Weighing pigs is definitely worth the time, as it targets where to make changes which can, ultimately, mean less overall effort for greater results. So, if producers are to start doing just one new thing straight away, then biting the bullet and weighing some pigs is what Yolande suggests!

Yolande also spoke about exciting work with the team at the University of Newcastle, measuring immune proteins in pig saliva to help spot subclinical disease.

Saliva was collected by providing pigs with ropes to chew on – much easier and cheaper than blood sampling. The concentrations of immune proteins in saliva samples were related to reductions in pig growth.
Researchers at Newcastle and AHVLA are continuing this work so that, soon, saliva sampling could offer a low-cost disease surveillance method.

Click here to read more in Yolande’s full presentation.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Every unit can achieve pigs’ full potential

Elanco’s Full Value Pig (FVP) concept has been a great way for producers to get involved with the 2TS Finisher Challenge and improve performance.
I’ve worked with six different farms on FVP projects. Doing this exercise can identify areas where pigs are under-performing that you would not have spotted otherwise.  On several farms we have found that specific groups of pigs are not always achieving their potential and that is regardless of whether they started as the heaviest or lightest pigs at weaning.

Suitable interventions to achieve more of this potential can then be made, for example: flow changes, reducing movements and sizing of pigs. Producers weigh pigs at different stages from birth through to finishing, with help from Elanco and BPEX. The data is analysed by Elanco and the BPEX KT manager helps the producers interpret it. 

Find out more about it at our 2TS Focus on Finishing conferences next week – view my video invitation here!  
If you’re interested in an FVP exercise on your farm, please contact me or your local KT manager.  

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Alternative bedding options – worth considering?

If producers are concerned that cereal straw availability may be limited, they could consider alternative bedding. Bedding materials should be comfortable to lie on, non-abrasive, non-slippery, highly absorbent and have low levels of environmental bacteria and mycotoxin contamination. There is more information in BPEX Knowledge Transfer Bulletin 15: http://www.bpex.org.uk/publications/2TS/KTBulletins.aspx

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Strategic De-stocking Guidance

BPEX has published guidance for pig producers on:
  • strategic de-stocking
  •  reviewing slaughter weight decisions.
The cost of pig production has rocketed as a result of high feed prices and, with the pig price not moving upwards enough to cover this, many pig producers are thinking hard about what direction their businesses should take.
Some may be thinking of taking the opportunity to conduct a ‘de-pop, re-pop’ to address underlying health challenges, while others may be considering ending pig production altogether.
The factsheet we’ve put together on strategic de-stocking is to help ensure it is managed in an organised way and optimises financial returns during the process.
The second factsheet provides a table showing the margin over feed cost per 5kg increase in carcase weight at various feed prices, to help producers make a calculated decision on slaughter weights.
Please contact your local BPEX knowledge transfer manager for more detailed help and support on both these topics or click here go to download the factsheets.

Hard copies of the factsheets are available by calling 0247 647 8792.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Pig building investment plans? Let us know more..

A new BPEX research project is investigating whether the industry should lobby for grant aid, to encourage greater investment in plant and housing too. But first, BPEX needs to capture some data from producers. 
What are your current investment plans? What would give you the confidence to invest?
Please help by taking the four-minute Pig Buildings on-line survey on the NPA website.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Salmonella control – try the new Farm Tool

Pig producers and vets can now use BPEX’s online Farm Tool, the new focus of the Zoonoses National Control Programme for salmonella in pigs (ZNCP). The Tool takes producers through a series of questions to help identify the herd’s current salmonella risks and produces an easy-to-use report highlighting priority action points for their particular set-up. This guidance can be printed off and used with the unit’s vet to address any issues and create a meaningful salmonella control plan, as required by farm assurance. Go to www.bpex-zncp.org.uk

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Reduce risk of autumn infertility

Sows and gilts that are served from mid-September to late October may suffer from infertility problems including delayed oestrus, increased returns and abortions. Predisposing factors include sows being weaned in poorer condition, warm days, cool nights and decreasing day lengths. There are some things you can do to minimise the risk:

Minimise draughts and ensure any cracks in ceilings and around doors are sealed
Increase the amount of bedding being used
Feed sows and gilts to body condition
Re-instate the winter feed curve
Provide 14 to 16 hours of light per day, of a minimum of 200 lux, from the beginning of August. Install a light timer, consider introducing more lights into dark houses and wash existing bulbs. Whitewashing walls/tents will also reflect light
Provide more physical boar contact pre- and post-service to provide ongoing support for the maintenance of pregnancy and to detect cycling sows.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Pig industry feed crisis updates

BPEX has created a special feed crisis centre with updates and advice for pig producers including latest price information, cost calculators and practical advice on maintaining efficiency and reducing feed waste on the farm.

Feed costs have again spiked due to global weather patterns and pig producers are facing large losses as the price they are paid is well below the cost of production. Latest estimated figures show it currently costs around 170p per kg to raise a pig, but at present producers are being paid just 150p per kg – an unsustainable position.

It’s important producers are not tempted to scrimp on feed quantity or quality. They should speak to their nutritionist to ensure they are using optimal diet specifications and feeding strategies.

Simple things to do on a day-to-day basis are make sure feed is not being wasted are to check that hoppers and feeders are set correctly to reduce feed loss through slatted floors.

It’s also worth considering reducing pig slaughter weight, to reduce cost of production through enhanced feed conversion ratio. 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

2TS conference dates and venues confirmed

The BPEX 2TS Focus on Finishing conferences will run in four locations this autumn, with two new venues for producers in the South West and the Midlands.

  • Monday 22 October Exeter Racecourse
  • Tuesday 23 October Dunsley Hall Hotel, West Midlands
  • Wednesday 24 October Diss Rugby Club
  • Thursday 25 October Wetherby Racecourse
The programme will feature pig producers and technical experts plus live audience voting and the results of this year’s 2TS Finisher Challenge.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Don’t lose £s at the final stage

The effort and resources that go into the finished pig should not be lost at the final stage.  Variation among pigs ready for slaughter can significantly affect financial returns.

Producers should look at a minimum of three months worth of abattoir grading information to help understand patterns of variation:
  • Overweight pigs
  • Underweight pigs
  • Out-of-probe-specification pigs.
  • % of pigs in the ‘optimum box’
Common reasons for variation include:

Nutrition and feed management

  • Incorrect diet specification
  •  Inconsistent diet ingredients for co-product and home mixers
  • Inadequate feeding space, depending on system
  •  Lack of clean, constantly accessible water (water intake ensures good feed intake) 
  • Poorly-maintained buildings
  • Below or above optimum stocking density which can lead to compromised growth 
Seasonal Effects
Year on year, there is a trend for probe and carcase weights to be lower during the warmer months and increase going into autumn

Health status

The better the health the more chance the pig has of achieving its genetic potential.

If producers have any concerns about their finisher pig production they should contact their vet, nutritionist or BPEX knowledge transfer manager for more information.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Solutions for low stress summer

Gilts and sows are typically prone to a lower conception rate during the summer months. It harks back to the modern pig’s ancestors; the wild boar would not usually mate at this time. And when the temperature goes up, it can mean additional stress for pigs.

As soon as the temperature rises above 18C the adult pig will need to cool itself. If pigs struggle to stay cool, the farrowing rate can drop by as much as 25%, with a small drop in litter size too.

Some solutions for both indoor and outdoor herds include: serving sows earlier or later in the day when it’s cooler, ensuring good hygiene when serving and washing hands regularly or having gloves at hand. It’s also worth serving an extra 10% of gilts/sows to offset the possible lower conception rate.

Indoor producers, specifically, should also: check insulation, as good insulation keeps the building cooler, make sure fans are clean, in order to operate fully, check water flow rates and consider adding a shower facility for the summer months.
On outdoor units wallows are important: make wallows twice the normal size to ensure all sows/gilts can access them at all times. Wallows need to be liquid, not muddy, to work best – so add clean water daily when very hot. Also, AI doses need to be kept at 16-18C in an insulated container and out of sunlight.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

ZNCP has changed

BPEX is responding to increasing pressure on the pig sector to minimise the salmonella risk to consumers. So the Zoonoses National Control Programme for Salmonella in pigs (ZNCP) has changed.
The meat juice testing for salmonella antibodies has now been replaced with a new on-farm salmonella risk assessment tool which will help identify the most effective control methods for each individual pig unit.
The outcomes of the risk assessment are used to create a meaningful salmonella control plan, as required by farm assurance.

Go to: www.bpex-zncp.org.uk

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

PMWS Risk Update

The latest information on PMWS has been published in a new Research into Action factsheet. It comes from an ongoing study to identify the risk factors and their association with the severity of PMWS at farm level. The factsheet can be downloaded here and there is further information on the project website. Risk factors identified include:
  • Raising grower pigs indoors
  • Bringing new boars onto the farm
  • Presence of M. hyopneumoniae antibodies
  • Presence of hospital pens which drain towards other accommodation
  • Increased requirement for veterinary visits (consequence)

Friday, 13 July 2012

Huge achievements for stockmen in the East

Twenty-nine pig stockmen from the East of England completed the BPEX Stockman Development Programme this week. Their confidence has grown and they’re finding small changes can make a big difference, having taken what they’ve learned back to the farm.

The eight-month Stockman Development course is designed to both boost practical pig husbandry skills and give trainees a wider knowledge of the supply chain.

The student of the year award went to Piotr Wroblewski, who works for Piggy Green near Bury St Edmunds. He was really pleased to receive the award and said his time on the course has helped motivate him to progress further in his pig industry career. Piotr said: “I think we’ve improved our service management with the sows and also what we do at weaning. I hope we will start to see the results and better performance soon.”

Fellow trainee James Hearmon from Rattlerow Farms highlighted about what he had learned about condition scoring sows and how much it had helped his pig management.
Piotr, James and the rest of the group all received certificates of achievement at a special presentation evening in Bury St Edmunds. Their managers also came along for a bite to eat and to help celebrate their success. 
Click here for the photos..

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Pregnancy scanning – some practical tips

Pig producers had a look inside the sow’s reproductive tract and then picked up their scanner to practice pregnancy diagnosis at a workshop in the South West.

Fran Baird from The George Vet Group showed the group what the reproductive tract looks like, including where semen is deposited, where eggs are released and where embryos develop.
He highlighted some problem areas to look out for, including the negative impact of stress on ovulation. Fran said that 21-day returns could be caused by serving sows when not on heat, poor semen handling or poor uterine environment. The group also learned that failure to farrow could be caused by bad scanning technique, pseudo pregnancy or infection.

Nigel Bennett of Schippers then gave guidance on pregnancy scanning and trainees practiced on their sows. Think of the scanner as a torch, he said, and shine the beam through the area you want to scan. Producers should place the scanner on the second teat from the back and avoid the bladder, as the bladder and foetuses both show up as small black objects. Plus, it’s important use scanning gel with the scanner, not water, and keep the equipment clean. Aim to scan at four weeks to get the best picture.

Click here for the pictures…

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

BPEX PhD student hunts for pig with best legs

Move over Elle Macpherson – the search is now on for the pig with the best legs as part of a new research project to improve the health and welfare of pigs on farms across the UK.

The study, being led by Newcastle University and jointly-funded by BPEX, was set up to see if we can predict from an early age whether a pig is at risk of becoming lame, simply by analysing the way it walks.

Using video motion capture – a technique similar to that used in animation for Hollywood blockbusters such as Avatar and Lord of the Rings – the team measured changes in the pigs’ gait, focussing on the angle of the joints and length of stride.

By assessing what constitutes ‘normal’ gait in pigs, the team reveals how the system could be used to reduce lameness, improving health and welfare on farms, reducing costs and improving sustainability.

Presenting the findings at the 22nd International Pig Veterinary Society Congress in Korea, Sophia Stavrakakis, who carried out the research as part of her PhD, said that for a pig, a great set of legs isn’t just about looking good.

“Lameness among livestock is a major problem for farmers,” says Sophia, whose project brings together experts in pig science and bioengineering at Newcastle University.

For more click here

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Reproduction problems?

You can now view and hear a specially recorded presentation from Australian pig expert Professor Paul Hughes.
He reveals common mistakes in breeding herd management, drawing on the experience of the Target 25 project in Australia.
Click here to download the presentation.
And, if you have any questions for Paul, please use the comments box below or email them to kt@bpex.ahdb.org.uk before Friday 6 July. BPEX will then forward them to Paul and make his responses available online afterwards.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Tess on TV promoting the pig industry

Tess Howe, our skills development manager, has been filmed today for local TV –   Channel 7 – on the BPEX stand at Lincolnshire show, telling children and young people all about the pig industry. A new media star in the making?!  

Friday, 15 June 2012

Green Pig Sets Off

A new inflatable Green Pig has made its debut at the Cereals event this week, helping to tell farmers about the Green Pig project. The pig will be appearing at various events this summer.

The project, sponsored by Defra’s LINK programme, set out to establish the practical limits for inclusion of peas and beans in pig diets, that would not impact negatively on their growth.
Home-grown peas and beans can help UK pig farmers reduce dependency on soya as the main protein source in pig feed. 

Soya bean meal is popular for inclusion in livestock feeds on account of its competitive cost and high protein density. But there is concern that increasing world demand for soya bean meal as a protein source will outstrip supply and that this increasing demand is driving soya production to move out of established cultivated land into new areas, resulting in deforestation and land use change in some countries.  

For UK pig farmers there are two key potential benefits of replacing some of their imported soya with pulses. Firstly, it can help reduce the environmental impact of pork production and, secondly, that it could help pig farmers and the supply chain manage their costs, sourcing their protein locally and giving some protection from volatility in world soya prices.

Click here http://www.bpex.org.uk/articles/301804/30_Sustainable_Farming.aspx to download Farm Case Study no. 30, including details of the commercial farm trial results.

And, if you can think of a name for the Green Pig, let us know. ‘Pea-ter’ has been suggested..!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Recognition for professional pig producers

Giving recognition for pig producers’ professionalism has just become easier and membership fees are lower. The Pig Industry Professional Register (PIPR) is a very useful tool to help the pig industry demonstrate its high standards and professionalism to assurance bodies, government and the public.

It keeps a record of all registered events and training members have been to and members now have direct access to their records online.

PIPR membership simply involves:
  • Registering to open a PIPR member’s account
  • Members signing their name on the PIPR form provided when they go to events and training courses
Points are then automatically added to each member’s PIPR account so they continue to build up points throughout their pig industry career. It could be described as building up ‘professional capital’.
Members can access and print off a statement of their points balance and how they earned them, to show their credentials to colleagues, current and possible future employers.
The PIPR scheme was developed by BPEX and City & Guilds NPTC, in collaboration with pig producers, as a simple way to give recognition for producers’ commitment to improving their knowledge and skills.

Anybody working in the pig industry can be a member, including vets and allied industry. For more details go to: www.pipr.org.uk

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Photos: pig stockmen visit feed mill

The Stockman South training group got out and about on a visit to a BOCM feed mill this month. 
It was part of the BPEX Stockman Development course - designed to give stockmen a wider knowledge of the pig supply chain, as well as boosting practical pig husbandry skills.
Email Charlotte West  (pictured) for more details of training and development opportunities in the south of England.

Please click here for photos...

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

More profit from finishers? Producers decide how…

 The 2TS Finisher Challenge is prompting pig producers to review performance records and set targets for improvements – to achieve full potential and profitability from their finishing herds.  Producers can either actively implement new strategies to improve performance or they might decide not to change anything and simply monitor what happens – it’s up to each producer.

All it takes to enter is to provide a set of data from anytime between 1 January 2012 and now, then another set on 31 September 2012.

Even if they’re not using an electronic recording system, there are some simple ways of calculating the three key performance indicators:

Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR):
Estimate this using the amount of feed purchased in relation to the number of live weight kilograms sold. 

Average Daily Gain (ADG)
Weigh all pigs at every stage or, alternatively, select a room, a litter or 10-20 random pigs of various sizes to weigh just a sample of pigs at each stage. 

Count the number of pigs when they enter a room/building and then keep a record of how many go into the hospital pens, are streamed off, sold or die.

For more details, go to www.bpex.org.uk/2ts/finishing or just contact a knowledge transfer manager to get involved.
Feel free to submit your comments below if you’re trying anything new or have any questions. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

English industry hosts ‘EU Hub’

A busy week last week! Ideas and information were coming thick and fast from our European pig industry colleagues at an ‘EU Hub’ meeting hosted by the BPEX knowledge transfer and research and development teams.

Irish and Dutch guests were also joined by Professor Paul Hughes from Australia. It was an informal chance pick up new information that could help pig producers over here improve their businesses.
The topics ranged from breeding herd parity profile to health and PPRS reduction, from new farrowing pen designs to recruiting new staff for pig farms.

Plus, an interesting idea that’s popular in the Netherlands – an internet forum which pig producers can log into to discuss and swap ideas on practical pig topics. Something for the English pig industry perhaps? You can let us know your thoughts by clicking on ‘comments’ below.
The EU Hub followed straight on from the British Pig and Poultry Fair – if you haven’t had a look yet, you can click here to see pictures of what BPEX got up to at the event. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Room for improvement - pig reproduction priorities

Australian pig expert Professor Paul Hughes highlighted the priorities for improvement in pig reproduction this week at two BPEX Two-Tonne Sow events.
These included: 

1. Gilt management!
  • Too often, producers mate gilts who are not yet cycling properly – thinking that they’re second oestrus animals when, in fact, they are still only at first oestrus.
  • Gilt culling policies need to be stricter. Around 1 in 10 gilts are sub-fertile so producers should focus on good oestrus detection and then cull the last ones to start cycling. Getting rid of poorer gilts at this stage will reduce low fertility throughout the herd.

2. Feeding strategies
3. Understanding exactly what is happening with regular and irregular returns to service

Look out for more information and Paul’s full presentation soon on the news and events pages at www.bpex.org.uk

Paul has many years of pig farming and research experience at the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI).

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Planning permission – doing the groundwork

The pig industry has suffered from a lack investment in new buildings, mostly in nursery and grower/finisher accommodation. A consequence of this is often poor pig performance and increased production costs.

So, when producers apply for planning permission for new buildings, it’s important to do the groundwork to make sure it goes through smoothly. 

Before applying, they need to:

  • Discuss the planning application with their local planning office
  • Research similar applications to identify previous problems or successes
  • Consider the perspective of neighbours and local residents
  • Ensure all planning application paperwork is completed thoroughly and to a high standard. Anticipate where objections could come from and put solutions in place where appropriate. For example: to improve visual impact, consider a sensitive planting scheme or see if ground-level bins can be used as an alternative to tall bulk bins.
High-quality, fit-for-purpose buildings help producers to:
  • Deliver high standards of animal health and welfare
  • Improve feed use and growth rates
  • Reduce environmental impacts such as release of odour and ammonia
  • Offer opportunities to improve labour
  • Improve energy efficiency
Go to the BPEX Environment Hub for more information. You also contact Anna Davis (pictured)on 0247 647 8798 or anna.davis@bpex.ahdb.org.uk 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Lady Gaga in the farrowing house?!

Thought I'd share some of the pig headlines from the British Society of Animal Science (BSAS) conference this week. 
Apparently playing the radio increases piglet play behaviour and sow nursing behaviour. Piglets getting down to Lady Gaga was an interesting suggestion! 
Also, on gilt management, Mr Cottney's results showed that ad lib feeding gilts after service doesn't affect no. born alive but reduces farrowing rate by 8.7%.
And, diets balanced properly using peas and beans instead of soya bean meal are no different in nitrogen balance and retention. Pulses look like a useful alternative to soya... 
Click here to read the highlights on Twitter and, for full details, visit the BSAS website.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A pig vet's bugbears on farm

Vet David Chennells, MA VetMB CertPM MRCVS, told the Midland Pig Producer Club what bugs him most on pig units. It was part of a workshop focused on reducing risk of spreading disease challenge throughout pig units. Some of the bugbears he highlighted were:

• Old fridges used for vaccines – they’re always the cast offs from the domestic kitchen and yet they store £1000s worth of vaccine
• Untidy fridges
• Dirty bottles and needles

• Clogged-up fan vents and louvres
• Records stacked up unused
The photos show how a clean and tidy fridge should be and what fan vents should NOT look like!

Friday, 13 April 2012

What pigs can tell us

Pigs are inquisitive, social and have a better sense of smell than dogs. They also have a highly sensitive sense of taste. The things we know about pigs and their behaviour can be used to the stockman’s advantage when managing pigs at weaning.
Trainees on the Stockman North training programme learned more from vet Duncan Berkshire about how to get good early growth and quick growing pigs.
Trainees imagined, firstly, that they were suckling pigs. The sow and farrowing environment provided them with milk and warmth, protection (physical and immune), a hierarchy within the litter, family, social interaction and group feeding. It’s important to make the transition to weaner accommodation as smooth as possible and continue to provide these things as far as possible.
Post-weaning, feed and water and heat are priorities. Meals should be small and frequent. And water is vital, as Mark and Jack found during a competition to see who could eat biscuits the quickest!
Pigs behaviour will tell you whether they’re the right temperature or not. Read what the pigs are telling you, as well as the ventilation or temperature control dial.

Monday, 2 April 2012

2TS Finisher Challenge - the race is on

Producers from all areas of England are giving the 2TS Finisher Challenge a go. They're often pleasantly surprised when they ring up BPEX to say they're interested and find that's all that's required to 'join up'.

The knowledge transfer managers have started visiting finisher units to have a look performance records, help with how and what to record if needed and discuss what could be tried to boost pig performance between now and October.

One producer is looking at weighing before slaughter to get more ‘pigs in the box’. Another producer simply wants an assessment of his unit to see if there is any ‘tweaking’ that can be done to improve his production. In the north, two pig clubs have decided to compete against each other as combined forces!

There are 10 prizes up for grabs by pig producers , thanks to kind sponsorship from Elanco Animal Health. The two producers who make the most progress will each win a top-of-the-range tablet computer – one will go to the best contract finisher and one to the best breeder-finisher producer. There will also be regional prizes for eight more units across England. Prizes will be awarded based on the highest percentage improvements in feed conversion ratio, average daily gain and mortality

For frequently asked questions about the Challenge, click here.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Post-weaning growth check can be avoided

The post-weaning growth check can be avoided, producers heard at our 2TS Focus on Weaning conferences this week.

While the growth check is a commercial fact on many farms, it is actually a scientific fiction, said Mick O’Connell from Devenish Nutrition (pictured left). For newly weaned pigs, the priority is to maximise water and feed intake – water can often be the ‘forgotten nutrient’ but feed intake is determined by water consumption, not the other way round.
Supplying plenty of clean water came up several more times when pig producers spoke about how they get weaners off to a good start on their farms, including Cameron Naughton (middle) who has outdoor weaners in the south west and Simon Colchester (right) who rears pigs indoors from 7kg in East Anglia.

Read more from the conferences on my Twitter feed @2TSPigs_lis and download all the presentations from the BPEX website later today.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Back to the drawing board..

Our staff training group at T Field in Yorkshire went back to the drawing board and came up with a revamped design of the department they work in, after four training sessions spent working on the project. I asked trainees to consider what the change of design was trying to achieve and how the system and pig flow would work – ideally done within the existing building, rather than building a new one.

The ideas included:
1 A new service/weaned sow area with 30 service stalls, five boar pens and with weaned sow pens fed by a trickle feeding system. The idea was to make serving easier and less labour intensive
2 A service area featuring an office with microscope to check semen quality, hot water, a computer and all recording to be done using I-Paqs. Their design also had a static washer with a pressure line, two feed bins and automatic feeding
3 A washing system with a fixed pressure pipe, 255 bar PSI pressure washer fitted on the whole unit via over and underground pipes. Issues would be costs and digging the pipes down, but the system would allow more drying time in the rooms. An estimated eight hours’ labour would be saved, which could be spent in the farrowing houses instead
4 A scrape-through dry sow yard with dump feeders and an integrated piping system for washing out.

Monday, 27 February 2012

How many gilts and how to manage them?

Calculating replacement gilt numbers and the criteria for gilt selection and management were among the key topics for our latest stockman training in the south. Vet Jennie Batt trained the Wiltshire and Oxford groups and Annie Davies trained the group in Devon – 28 stockmen in total.

They outlined how to calculate the numbers of gilts required, taking into account replacement and conception rates, time in isolation and time taken to clean and disinfect the pen.

Jennie showed the stockmen photos of different gilts, and asked them to decide which gilts they would keep or not , based on criteria for selecting replacement gilts – genetic traits, toes, legs, teats and external genitalia.

Feed and water requirements of the growing gilt were covered along with body condition scoring and how to increase or decrease scores, for example, a 0.2kg increase in feed per day to bring about a 0.5 point increase in body condition score.

Annie highlighted the importance of the wean-service interval and how the number of empty days impacts on litters per sow per year and numbers of pigs produced.
Contact Charlotte West, knowledge transfer manager for the south of England, for more details on training or pig club meetings in the region.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Follow BPEX on Twitter

You can now follow me for the latest news from the BPEX Knowledge Transfer team, tips and ideas plus stories from my whereabouts: @2TSPigs_Lis

Get regular updates from the Pig Health Improvement Project too by following: @BPEXPigHealth

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Practical ideas for weaning - diary dates

The BPEX 2TS Focus on Weaning event is being held in March in three locations:

Monday 19 March Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester
Tuesday 20 March Diss Rugby Club
Wednesday 21 March Wetherby Racecourse

Local producers will speak about how they help get their weaned piglets off to a good start and industry experts will discuss appropriate use of antimicrobials, piglet physiology and nutrition – with plenty of practical ideas to take back to the farm. The afternoon will be rounded off with an interactive quiz.

To save a place at their regional event, producers can email clancy.smith@bpex.ahdb.org.uk or telephone 0247 647 8792. A full programme and registration details will be sent in the post and available online soon at www.2TS.org.uk

The closing date for registration is Monday 12 March 2012.
Attendance is free for producers. There is a charge of £20 plus VAT per delegate for non-producers. Students will receive a 50% discount.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Finishers - are you ready for a challenge?

A few pig finishers have already said they want to join in our 2TS Finisher Challlenge this year. BPEX has challenged English producers to see how much further they can improve growing pig production by October this year.
If you've heard about it and are curious about what is actually involved, contact one of us in the BPEX knowledge transfer (KT) team to find out more. Then you just need say you are ready to go for it and we'll take it from there.

We will help identify areas of ‘lost potential’ and find ways to fine tune your system. It does not matter what type of finishing system or what the starting point is – the challenge is open to all finishing and contract finishing pig units in England.The goal is to improve performance in the growing pig herd to help the industry reach the two-tonne sow target and increase profitability.
We know that, with an improved focus and often small management changes, a big difference in production can be made. We’ll be providing support throughout the challenge, particularly with performance data records and how to make best use of them.We’d like pig finishers to get in touch as quickly as possible – we’re excited to see what can be achieved by October 2012!There will also be prizes for ‘most improved production’.
Click here for contact details.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Countdown to compulsory electronic pig movement

The countdown is on to when the eAML2 pig movement system becomes compulsory at the beginning of April 2012 in England and Wales.

There is a BPEX Live online workshop on Monday 30 January at 7pm to demonstrate how to get started with the system and answer questions. Producers can register for the workshop and join in from their home or office here.

To be legal, pig movements must be reported through the eAML2 system from April by either setting up the movement online or by contacting the eAML2 Bureau Service. There will also be third party providers such as the British Pig Association or marketing groups.

The current carbon copy AML2 paper form will stop being a valid form of pig movement reporting.

The eAML2 system is already being used for movements of pigs to abattoirs, farms auction markets, movements via collection centre and shows. All pig keepers are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the electronic system ready for April and register with the service.

To register for eAML2 visit http://www.eaml2.org.uk/ and click on ‘Producer registration’ or call the eAML2 bureau service on 0844 335 8400 or fax to 02476 692 405. There are also ‘quick start’ guides available online.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Giving sows a rest post-service

A few different things have been tried out on farm following the Stockman Development North training session on service management.
When we re-capped on the topic at our most recent session, stockmen said:
- sows are now rested for 20 mins after service, with boar contact
- service house design is being improved on one unit by building an extension
- they went home and checked lights and water etc to minimise causes of anoestrus
- they were considering doing an oestrus plan to help improve heat detection / time of service for optimal numbers born alive.
Breeding companies ACMC and JSR then joined the group, to explain more about the work that goes on before good quality semen, gilts or boars arrive on farm. It is important to manage these products well on farm to get the most from them and minimise costs to the business.