BPEX blog

Monday, 8 December 2014

Why stockmen should be there at farrowing

Being present to monitor farrowing is key to helping the newborn piglet get a good start and reducing piglet mortality rates. Newborn management is an important factor in achieving one extra pig weaned per sow per year, which is one of the key targets BPEX is helping producers with this year.

Newborn piglets are poorly equipped to keep warm immediately after birth as the energy reserves to produce body heat (glycogen stored in the liver) are limited. A combination of factors means that piglets often become chilled: their small size means they lose heat fast, a lack of brown fat means there’s no internal heat source, they have little surface fat and no hair (no insulation) and they’re born wet with birth fluids (further chilling). Piglets are also born with no immunity and can only get this from colostrum soon after birth.

Producers could consider altering routines or rotas to provide cover at farrowing time or discuss with their vet the practicalities of using products to promote farrowing during the daytime, when the stockman can be present.

Colostrum is the ‘first milk’ and an essential source of energy, nutrients and immunity for the piglet.
It is critical for development of the piglets’ own immune system and optimum lifetime performance. Producers should maximise colostrum intake in the first six hours after birth. Beyond 24 hours is too late as the piglets’ intestines can no longer absorb the large antibodies found in colostrum.

Split suckling, assisted suckling and hand feeding colostrum are all options to help ensure colostrum intake.

For more information: 

Watch the BPEX Regional Producer Events presentations on optimising weaned pig quality

View short video clips from the BPEX Practical Pig App 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Help keep disease out of the UK

Keeping African Swine Fever (ASF) out of Britain must be a top priority for the industry and government alike. One of the major risks is the accidental introduction by somebody returning from an Eastern European country where it is already confirmed. 

It only takes one person to bring back a pork product which they then take onto a unit for lunch and the potential for introducing ASF to the UK exists.

BPEX has produced posters in English, Polish and Lithuanian which are available as hard copy or can be downloaded from the BPEX website.

There is also a pictorial poster which aims to stop people bringing pork products in from countries where ASF has been confirmed.

ASF is slowly getting closer to us all the time and some people are saying it is when not if it arrives here. We have to be on the alert and prepared for the worst.

Posters are available to download here while hard copies are available from Cheryl.barker@bpex.ahdb.org.uk, telephone 02476 478893.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Practical pig husbandry qualification updated

We have revised and re-organised the pig industry Certificate of Competence in pig husbandry skills, with some changes to the assessment criteria and the learner manuals, which are now available. 

The Certificates of Competence are practical and relevant qualifications, covering stockmanship, welfare, pig husbandry skill and pig unit supervision. Candidates are assessed on farm and the assessment criteria are based on the demonstration of knowledge and practical skills. Key revisions include:

• Mandatory units on pig stockmanship and welfare and the safe use of veterinary medicines have been included in the pig husbandry skills learning manual folder (they were in separate folders before)

• The online written test has been removed to ensure the assessment and qualifications are practical throughout.

There is more information at www.bpex.org.uk/2TS/Training/CertificatesOfCompetence.aspx or please get in touch

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Users rate BPEX Practical Pig App

The hundreds who have used the BPEX Practical Pig App so far have rated it 4.8 out of 5 and BPEX is encouraging even more people to download it to help build practical skills on pig units. 

The free app now features nearly 100 short video clips that demonstrate practical techniques, covering breeding and wean-to-finish systems, both indoor and outdoor. All videos can be viewed on the website too. So managers and staff can use the app in situ out on the unit, watching and discussing the video clips either on a smartphone or tablet computer, or on a PC in the office.

The clips explain not only how tasks are done but also why they are done in a certain way and what impact that can have on pig productivity. The app is ideal for supervisors to watch with their stockmen, either out on the unit or in the staffroom during tea break – so they can highlight key points and explain them in the context of their particular farm.

To view the videos on a PC or laptop, go to practicalpig.bpex.org.uk and to download the app for smartphone or tablet computer, go to play.google.com or www.apple.com and search for BPEX Practical Pig App. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Manage soil to boost benefits for both pig and arable farmers

We have added four new video clips on soil management for outdoor pig units  to the BPEX Practical Pig App and website.
The short videos are presented by Tim Schofield, FWAG farm conservation adviser, along with Nigel Penlington of BPEX, and cover: soil types, compaction, risk mapping and field gradients.

They summarise how and why soil must be carefully managed, to help maximise the benefits for both pig and arable farmers and minimise any environmental impact. Reducing the risk of surface water run-off should be high on the priority list, as well as utilising the natural nutrients supplied by the pigs. 

The Practical Pig App now features nearly 100 short video clips that demonstrate management techniques on farm, covering breeding and wean-to-finish systems, both indoor and outdoor.

Managers and staff can use the app in situ out on the unit, watching and discussing the video clips either on a smartphone or tablet computer, or on a PC in the office.

The BPEX Good Soil Management Practice guide accompanies the videos and can be found at: www.bpex.org.uk/environment-hub/soil-water/default.aspx

To view the videos on a PC or laptop, producers should visit practicalpig.bpex.org.uk and to download the app, free, for smartphone or tablet computer, go to play.google.com or www.apple.com and search for BPEX Practical Pig App.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Keep the momentum with feed conversion and growth

Feeding herd growth and feed conversion continued to get better in the year to June 2014, according to the latest Agrosoft data. The feed conversion ratio in the rearing stage improved marginally at 1.73 and there was a faster improvement in the finishing herd, where the FCR was 2.66, down from 2.81 in the previous year.

Daily weight gain was higher than a year earlier in the rearing herd, up from 488g to 511g/day while, in the finishing herd, it was just under 800g/day. 

Improved feed, timing on ration changes, water availability, water quality and investments in better building ventilation will all have contributed to these gains and English finisher producers need to keep focused on these to continue improving.

Strong weaning weights, stocking rates, weighing and recording are also important factors. BPEX calculates that an improvement of just 0.1 in FCR on a 300 sow unit could generate £14,000 savings per year in the feed bill. 

The wean-to-finish section on the BPEX Practical Pig App has short on-farm video clips to help demonstrate important tasks to staff, from preparing weaner accommodation to managing feed, checking water flow rates and weighing pigs.

Feed conversion ratio and daily liveweight gain are the key performance targets for the finishing herd BPEX is focused on helping the industry achieve this year, alongside numbers of pigs weaned per sow for the breeding herd. This is to help close the gap in its competitiveness with other countries

Key performance targets BPEX is focused on helping the industry achieve this year:
+1 pig weaned per sow per year
+50g daily liveweight gain, 7kg to slaughter
-0.1 feed conversion ratio, 7kg to slaughter

Monday, 22 September 2014

Video: manures and slurries are valuable assets

Manures and slurries are no longer a waste product for disposal, they are a valuable asset to be utilised.
BPEX has produced a short video which demonstrates on-farm testing of pig slurry to determine its fertiliser value and how this can be calculated to include within a fertiliser plan.
It's presented by BPEX environment programme manager Nigel Penlington and Suffolk FWAG farm conservation adviser Tim Schofield. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Wean-to-service sow diets: impact on litter size

Good oocyte (egg) production and quality have a major impact on litter size and sows need careful nutritional management to achieve it, particularly during the wean-to-service period.

Improving litter size is currently a key target for the industry, to help close the performance gap with our European competitors, and managing oocyte production and quality is the first opportunity, right at the start of the breeding cycle, to optimise it.

There’s a challenge to satisfy the high nutritional demands of late lactation and also provide the right nutrients for good quality oocytes during the last 14 days before the sow’s next ovulation. In particular, it is the last 7 to 10 days before ovulation where nutrition has the greatest effect.  

Many producers feed ad lib lactation diets before service to help replace sow body condition but more are now moving to tailored wean-to-serve diets with supplementary ingredients to target the different needs, including oocyte production. The options include supplementary sugars and organic acids.

Pig nutritionist Andrew Zarkos-Smith is one of a number who are working with pig producers on ‘wean-to-service’ nutrition. He says that, rather than feeding only a basic lactation or gestation diet, these diets need to be formulated specifically for every farm. There can be an improvement of an extra 0.5 piglets per litter at least by feeding such a diet.

The diets include sugars such as dextrose and sucrose which research has shown boost the sow’s insulin levels which, in turn, increases the luteinising hormone and stimulates her to ovulate more vigorously.  This means a larger number of quality eggs is released for potential fertilisation.

BPEX is currently running a feeding trial to monitor the impact of feeding sugars. There are also 12 pig producers taking part in a BPEX body condition scoring trial, scoring sows as they go into farrowing and as they come out. This is to try to find links between changes in body condition and identify sows within the herd which are most at risk of fertility issues. 

My full article on this topic is in the September issue of Pig World magazine

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Sharing ideas from other farms

When BPEX finds practical ideas on farm that are innovative and effective, it aims to tell others about it in its short Farm Case Study factsheets. 

The series helps share how producers do things so others can try new techniques or equipment having seen some evidence of how they work. The aims may be to improve productivity, save money, boost staff morale or all three.

The factsheets include solutions on a range of topics including: creep training, fox fencing on outdoor units, gilt management, staff training, split suckling, solar energy, farrowing paddock wallows and soil management.

There are currently 36 Farm Case Studies to browse; they are available online here and can also be ordered in the post by calling: 0247 647 8792 or emailing kt@bpex.ahdb.org.uk  

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Avoiding any guesswork in on-farm decisions

The changes that can make the biggest difference to pig performance and cost-cutting are often flagged up by recording and spending time understanding data. So BPEX has provided a Recording Toolkit to help producers get the most out of recording.

The toolkit comprises: a ‘Which Guide’ to recording and decision support systems, a cost of production calculator, national costings and herd performance figures, case studies, the BPEX recording field trial report. Also included is a webinar with Danish pig consultant and ex-production manager, Sanne Baden, on getting the most out of your data recording system.

Sanne worked with six English producers on a 12-month BPEX field trial on data recording. She says that, without good record keeping, the decisions made on farm can be little more than guesswork.

“You need to ensure that the right information is being collected and is recorded accurately before you can even start figuring out what it means and whether change is needed to keep performance and costs of production to target.”

The key points highlighted during the BPEX recording trial to maximise the value of data are:

Recording the right data
Running regular reports
Target setting
Checking progress and monitoring interventions.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Coping with larger litters

An increase in sow performance and larger litter sizes in the English industry has highlighted challenges with weaning and rearing the extra pigs and BPEX is helping producers find solutions to this.

Knowledge transfer manager Angela Cliff says: “It is important to ensure all piglets drink adequate colostrum to get off to a good start and to make sure that sows are milking properly. There are videos to help demonstrate colostrum management to staff, available on the BPEX Practical Pig App and the app website (pictured). We’re also working with a producer who is focusing on recording and analysing the data to ensure he selects the more milky sows to breed from to help rear the larger litters they produce.”

The farrowing disc, free from BPEX, is another tool now being used by many producers to help keep tabs on which sows have farrowed, when they might need assisting and when colostrum is likely to be available for split suckling.

Other areas to look at include ensuring optimum temperatures in creep areas and towel drying small piglets to reduce the chance of chilling.

“Then, a longer-term option to consider is reducing sow numbers, to leave some empty farrowing pens free for nurse sows if needed to help rear the extra piglets. Small pig management is something we’ll be including in our autumn workshops.”

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Innovation Conference: feeding every pig its exact requirements

If you've not yet had chance to catch up with the presentations and speaker videos from this year's BPEX Innovation Conference, they're all available here to view

Meeting the exact nutrient requirements of sows and finishers through bespoke feed rations was a key theme, with examples of how it can be done in practice.

Producers Richard Hooper and Phil Stephenson cited key benefits of lowering feed costs per pig, as well as a reduction in labour intensity and less feed wastage. As a result, overall feed savings of up to 10% were identifed, although the systems do involve high initial investment.

Richard Hooper manages a 240-sow indoor unit at Harper Adams University. He has introduced a  ‘multifast’ feeding system that delivers a specific blend of feed to each pen of finishers to meet each pig’s nutritonal requirements more accurately.

Phil Stephenson, owner and manager of a 700-sow, indoor farrow-to-finish unit spoke about his Gestal wireless sow feeding system. Phil said: “It’s used in the farrowing house and ensures that each sow receives the correct amount of feed based on her parity. This varies between two feeds a day up to farrowing and six feeds a day post farrowing. The system has saved my business as much as £20,000 since installation.

“The computer software allows each individual sow to be monitored from my office. The data produced means that I can nip any issue in the bud before it becomes too serious.”

This tied in with another overarching message from the conference:  if you don’t measure it, you can’t control it. In his presentation, Hugh Crabtree of Farmex said: “Data should be turned into knowledge then used to generate profit. Even the most experienced can learn something when they start measuring.”

He said there was no need to measure everything but the key elements were temperature, water, energy, feed and growth.

“The data must be used to get more things more right more of the time. Do that and the pigs’ biology will respond.”

There are also a few pictures from the conference here

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Modified dry sow arcs aim for targeted feeding

I’ve been working with an outdoor producer to set up a new trial to target delivery of feed into modified dry sow arcs, with the help of a BPEX Innovation Fund grant.

The producer started thinking about how he could feed his pigs effectively by reducing wastage, without incurring too much cost. Because the land can be quite wet at times it was having an impact on sow condition and was also leading to increased aggression. Extra food was having to be given to compensate for what was being lost in the wet ground.

So he has developed a concept where he can simply pull up to his dry sow arc and activate a quick release lever and deliver food into each hut.

On my first look at a group of sows being fed in the new huts, what struck me was just how calm the sows were. A little food is blown in to start with, then the rest is delivered between the two huts. The sows seem to find a natural order. There has also been a significant reduction in bird activity in the dry sow paddocks.
  • The following data will be collected from both the trial feed delivery system and current dry sow feeding system:
  • Group size (20-22/pen)
  • Feed usage per sow
  • Straw usage
  • Bird prevalence in respective paddocks
  • Staff time in feeding and bedding up
  • Sow aggression as measured by incidents of vulva biting         
  • Sow physical performance data
If you’d like to find out more or have any comments, please get in touch. We’ll provide more updates as we gather in the data

Monday, 21 July 2014

Farrowing tent aims to reduce piglet mortality

Our BPEX outdoor farrowing tent field trial is yielding positive results so far, including up to 50% savings in straw usage, compared with traditional arcs, as well as easier access for staff.

The overall aim is to increase the production potential of outdoor farrowing by providing more control at farrowing time. This should lead to lower pre-weaning mortality and provide a better environment for the staff to work in at this crucial stage of the production cycle.

The two producers trialing the farrowing tent are weighing the piglets coming out of both the tent and the arcs to see what, if any, difference there is between weaning weights. Next steps also include further modification of the internal sloping wall which helps the sow to lie down while giving piglets an escape route from potential crushing.

If the development of this practical solution proves successful, it will be highly valuable to the outdoor industry as average figures for pigs weaned per sow per year in outdoor systems continue with little improvement according to Agrosoft’s 12-month rolling data.

Click here to see our photo story showing the design and summarising the project so far.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Piglet weight increasing as stockmanship improves

Pig stockpeople are improving both pig productivity and their own skills, helped along by the BPEX Stockman Development Scheme and Stockman Plus courses which we ran in the north and east this year.

Stockman Callum Musgrave said the Stockman Development Scheme (North) had increased his awareness that even the smallest things matter. “One of the key things I’ve changed is to focus on temperature in farrowing house as it’s really important for sow performance. I check the temperature regularly throughout the day to make sure it’s constant and also check the sows have eaten their feed and are comfortable and not panting.  

“We’ve now just started getting more feed into sows and increasing piglet weight.  Enhanced knowledge has made me a much better stockman.”

Through the Stockman Development Scheme we're aiming both to improve technical knowledge, via pig production workshops, and also provide understanding of the pig supply chain through visits to feed mills and abattoirs.  The workshop topics include: veterinary and medicines, farrowing management and establishing the weaned pig. The Stockman Plus scheme is the next level up and focuses on problem-solving exercises as well as building up pig husbandry knowledge.

Importantly, for trainees at both levels, the chance to get together regularly at training sessions enables everyone to share, improve and learn from the changes they’ve tried out back on their units. 

There is more information on the full range of courses and skills development activities, from stockman up to unit manager level, on the BPEX website here.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Focus on ‘the three Rs’ to tackle seasonality

Given the last few winters we’ve had, it’s hardly surprising that sows do not want to farrow during the colder months. 

But there are measurements producers can take this summer to give real-time information about ‘at risk’ sows, so that their management can be 
adapted and reproductive loss reduced.

Roundness, returns and replacements, ‘the three Rs’, are the key areas to focus on recording. Specifics include:
  • Body condition scoring at farrowing and weaning identifies sows that are at risk of losing condition during lactation
  • A fertility chart gives a real-time farrowing rate record and identifies when sows are returning
  • Recording dates of oestrus on simple recording sheets and colour coding gilts using spray marker (pictured) helps keep track of replacement gilts coming into the system. 
Read more in this month’s BPEX Pink Pages, here, which is published monthly in Pig World magazine. 

And for further technical information and factsheets on breeding herd management click here

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

BPEX Practical Pig App training tool doubled in size

We've just doubled the size of the BPEX Practical Pig App with a new range of video clips added for the wean-to-finish herd. There are more than 40 new videos demonstrating practical tasks, from preparing weaner accommodation to feed and water checks, ventilation, pig handling and selecting pigs for sale.

These are in addition to the 50 clips on breeding herd management, which were produced for the app’s launch last year. It has already been downloaded more than 1200 times by smartphone or tablet computer users and a further 2600 people have viewed the video clips on the internet.

It’s exciting to see how many producers and stockmen are trying our app and how useful they’re finding it as a training tool. You can use it in situ out on the unit so supervisors can watch the video clips with staff and discuss key points in the context of their particular unit – as seen on the BBC Look East news programme recently! 

If there are pig management techniques producers would like to be added to the app, please let the BPEX knowledge transfer team know at kt@bpex.ahdb.org.uk; it’s a dynamic video library that can be built to suit the industry’s needs.

To download the app, free, for smartphone or tablet computer, go to play.google.com or www.apple.com and search for BPEX Practical Pig App or, to download the videos on a PC or laptop, go to practicalpig.bpex.org.uk

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Meet the BPEX team at Pig and Poultry Fair

The BPEX team will be there to meet and talk to visitors on Stand 49, Hall 2, at Pig and Poultry Fair 2014 next week. 

All are invited to come and have a drink with us and discuss any aspect of their business, from staff training and using the new Practical Pig App to environmental compliance and pig housing. You will also be able to find out about BPEX's new strategy, to be launched at the Fair. 

To help make sure you don’t miss anyone, check the panel, left, for times when specific staff will be available on the stand to meet you and answer your questions. 

Three BPEX speakers are also lined up for the Fair’s 'Outlook for pigs' forum, to help producers make sure their business is competitive, growing and able to successfully overcome the challenges ahead. The forum will look at on-farm productivity, trends in the retail market and where to invest to ensure business success in the years ahead. 

For more information, go to: www.bpex.org.uk/events/conferences/pigfair.aspx  

Monday, 28 April 2014

Gilt management is about not cutting corners

“Fine-tuning gilt management is the key to ‘the next level’” was the proclamation made to me by a pig producer recently and, to date, an improvement of up to 1.5 piglets born alive per litter has been achieved in this herd. The unit’s performance was recorded using a computerised system for individual gilt and sow records. It is the interrogation of records that allows producers to identify areas where performance can be improved and, as always, the more information recorded, the more useful that data set becomes.

As the number of gilts is between 20 to 25% of the herd at any one time, their contribution to the overall herd performance is very influential.  In this case, when analysing age of service and subsequent performance, it became apparent that gilts served over 250 days did not perform as well as younger gilts. 

How gilts were fed during the critical periods was reviewed so that, pre service, gilts are now flushed to maximise ovulation rate and, post service, the producer is avoiding over-feeding, to assist with implantation.

So, the moral of this particular (true) story is: 1. Keep individual sow and gilt records and make time to interrogate the data 2. Identify areas that are underperforming 3. Take advice and decide on actions to improve situation 4. Continue monitoring and evaluating.

On any farm, gilt management is about not cutting corners; the time you invest at this crucial stage will pay dividends in the long-term performance of your herd. BPEX is continuing to work with producers on gilt management as part of the Breed+3 programme to improve breeding herd performance. Click here for more information in our gilt management pack. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Tackling the perennial problem of seasonal infertility

We held a meeting on seasonal infertility at Bury St Edmunds last week where we outlined the results of a series of interventions carried out on farm. 

I was really pleased with how well attended our meeting was, with the audience providing some very useful and constructive feedback. A second is being held in the North of England on Tuesday, April 8. The meeting was attended by about 40 people covering producers, allied industry, nutritionists, feed companies and pharmaceutical firms so the whole industry was covered.

The interventions were:
  • Providing shade. Anecdotally it looks favourable and will be continued during the warmer months this year to provide enough information for conclusions to be drawn.
  • Ad –lib feeders. One important result was that body condition scoring proved to be successful and again this has continued on one unit and has been introduced into the quarterly vet visit
  • Feeding dextrose. Again the sample size is so far too small and this will be continuing. However, it did show an improvement in performance and more work will determine if this trend continues.
One of the speakers at the event was consultant Stephen Hall who said to know your FR% you must understand your reservice rate and how these animals are contributing to overall herd performance. And there was a good discussion on areas BPEX might like to look at next which included:
  • We must take the top farms from benchmarking records and understandhow they achieve the best levels of pre-weaning mortality
  • Summer lactation diets
  • Managing a gilt separately through to second farrowing
There were many very positive comments about the workshop as this is a problem from which the industry has always suffered. It is important to try to find ways of reducing the effects and improving efficiency which will have a direct effect on profitability.

For more information about the Northern workshop click here

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Time-saving vaccinator found on producer tour

An electrically powered vaccinator from the US is saving pig producer Ian Thompson a lot of time – up to 50%, he says. It was during our study tour to Pork Expo in Iowa last year, sponsored by Elanco, that Ian discovered this unique time-saving equipment.

Ian said: “The trip was very worthwhile and I’m grateful to Elanco and BPEX for giving me the opportunity to look further afield and find out about this new technology.

"It has helped to make us more efficient on the unit and staff find vaccination much less of a chore as the machine is light and easy to use.”

Click here to read more on p3 of BPEX’s March issue of Pink Pages. Please get in touch with me if you'd like to know more about the vaccinator or about BPEX study tours. 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Making the Pig Industry Professional Register work on farm

Pig producers who are giving ‘in-house’ training to staff on farm can become registered trainers on the Pig Industry Professional Register (PIPR) – to ensure they get credit for all the training and development they do. 

This is something many have not been aware of until now and it can also help producers provide a record of the training they do to comply with the recommendations of assurance schemes.

In-house training sessions could include training staff on the unit’s standard operating procedures (SOP) or using the BPEX Practical Pig App. All of these can be registered as training sessions so participants can earn PIPR points.

PIPR is the pig industry’s own continuous professional development (CPD) scheme, established to recognise professionalism and encourage lifelong learning to build on the existing skills in the pig industry. Members collect points through skills and knowledge acquisition both on-farm and through external training providers. So PIPR provides a record of achievement, independently accredited and recognised industry wide. 

Pig producers can register as a trainer by completing the Trainers Register Application form on the PIPR website, by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the page. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Getting to grips with data can have big impact on productivity

Our year-long BPEX field trial on recording and making better sense of data will soon be complete and we will be discussing the results with other producers at local pig club meetings.

Danish pig consultant and ex production manager, Sanne Baden, of Pig Improvements Ltd, has been visiting six different pig units on a quarterly basis to help make sure pig performance data is entered into recording systems accurately and interpret the management reports to help figure out whether and where change is needed.

Pigs weaned per sow per year on producer Tim Blanchard's unit have increased from 24.7 to 27.9 due to a number of factors, including a 10% increase in conception rate, improved parity profile and a 2.2% reduction in pre-weaning mortality.

When data highlighted pre-weaning mortality as an area to improve, Tim’s farrowing house staff started recording some additional information on cause and age of piglet death. They found that many were happening in the first 24 hours and it was often because piglets were cold, therefore going under the sow and being laid on.

Tim now synchronizes farrowing and has employed an extra full-time person to help manage the extra attention needed by farrowing larger numbers born and has reduced the pre-weaning mortality down to 6%. From looking at ages of piglet death, Tim was able to identify what likely impact staff would have in the farrowing house.

Feel free to contact me or your regional knowledge transfer manager for help with data interpretation.

Monday, 3 February 2014

BPEX on-farm reviews provide 'fresh pair of eyes'

A ‘fresh pair of eyes’ is useful on any pig unit, whether they have a lot of challenges to address or performance is already quite good. BPEX’s on-farm reviews can provide producers with additional help and experience to improve performance or to tackle a particular issue. A short visit report is written afterwards for the producer and shared with the unit's vet.

When one East Anglian unit requested a farm review visit, I was able to discuss with him possible ways to reduce problems with ‘greasy pig’. I suggested applying dry disinfectant, in just one farrowing room on days 6, 8 and 10, to see if it helped. The BPEX health team is also providing some help and information on swabbing pig pens for bacteria and disinfection.

Something else I found interesting was that the unit is not using injectable iron, but an iron powder, which is offered to the piglets on days 3, 7, and 10 and, so far, no piglets are suffering with anaemia. We often pick up different ideas and practices like this when we go on farm and it all adds to the knowledge and experience that, as a knowledge transfer team, we can share with other producers.

Go to: www.bpex.org.uk/2ts/contact.aspx

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Electronic sow feeders outdoors help reduce feed waste

Electronic sow feeders (ESF) for outdoor sows are helping to reduce feed waste in an on-farm trial by LKL Farming, using a BPEX Innovation Fund grant.

Feed savings have been calculated at about £15 per sow per year, with cost savings from increased sow productivity to be calculated next.

We set up the project to see if it would reduce competition between sows and feed them according to their body condition, as well as making more efficient use of feed and reducing vermin.

After some initial difficulty with unreliable wireless, the unit staff are now confident using the feeders and have a system for training both sows and gilts which takes about four days.
Go to www.bpex.org.uk/events/conferences/producer for more information in a presentation by production manager Malcolm Knowles.

The Innovation Fund grants mean pig producers can share the risk of investing in new or unproven technology or equipment, with BPEX offering up to 50% funding to producers to try out new and innovative ideas and share the pros and cons with fellow producers. Contact your regional knowledge transfer manager for more information.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Toolkit to retain good staff

BPEX is working with pig producers to help retain good staff; it has produced a Human Resources Toolkit to help unit managers provide staff with more support and a structure for their continuous development and training.

The toolkit contains an induction manual template to help integrate new starters into the business and a ‘skills matrix’ to help keep track of staff skills and identify where more training is needed.

There is also an annual appraisal form template which managers can use if they want to introduce an annual appraisal system. It provides managers and staff with a structure for their discussion, including how the employee feels the last 12 months have gone, their achievements, any issues that have arisen, objectives for the coming year and what additional help or training they may need. Managers can tailor all three documents to their specific units.

Managing staff development is a key part of unit management and motivates the whole team to make a positive impact on pig productivity. Producers need people who want to contribute to the business and stay in the industry for a long-term career.

The toolkit is a practical step in the pig industry’s new skills strategy, Recruit, Retain, Reward.