BPEX blog

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
Benchmarking
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