BPEX blog

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The importance of water

Water quality and availability are key to pig performance but are often overlooked. Pig producers should ensure they look at water supply, as well as analysing feed, when investigating any performance problems.

To ensure sufficient access to watering points, it is advisable to have more than one drinker per pen, to act as a backup if a drinker becomes blocked or broken. Producers should aim to check all drinkers are clean and working on a daily basis and check flow rates of every nipple and bite drinker regularly.

This is a simple task requiring a large measuring jug, a watch and less than a minute of time. Producers should operate the drinker for 30 seconds and note the volume of water collected in the jug. This is then doubled to give the flow rate in litres/minute; there is a table of minimum flow rates for different weights of pig on the BPEX factsheet, Action for Productivity 16: Water supply.

It’s good practice to check flow rate in the end pen when the building is full of pigs, to see how the water system can cope when most of the drinkers are being used. Flow rate can be adjusted if needed and producers should seek advice if they’re not sure how to. 

Water hygiene is a critical factor for pigs so bowl drinkers and troughs should be checked on a daily basis and cleaned as necessary. The complete water line, including drinkers, pipe work and header tanks should also be regularly cleaned and flushed through, ie between batches.

Microbiological, physical and chemical factors can all affect water quality and, if there is any doubt concerning quality, samples should be sent for analysis. 

For more information, download the factsheet Action for Productivity 16: Water supply here and view short video clips from the BPEX Practical Pig App here

Monday, 2 February 2015

Assess options for pig building investments

Optimising the environment in which pigs are reared and finished is important for maximising health and productivity. However, with profit margins tight for many pig producers, investment in pig housing isn’t always top of the agenda.

BPEX has run a couple of study tours for English producers, aiming  to present them with different options for ventilation and slurry management systems, focusing on how they could help enhance English  pig productivity and, at the same time, reduce ammonia emissions and their impact on the environment.

Thomas Burling, BPEX building and environment business support says that, to date, the study tours have provided really valuable information for the development of the English pig industry. “They’ve given producers and industry experts the chance to see, first-hand, systems which are less commonly seen in England, that  producers could  introduce  to boost production.

“A well-ventilated building can help reduce the outbreak and spread of disease.  It’s therefore  beneficial that our producers are aware of the latest technologies available, particularly with regard to ventilation systems and also the impacts of new regulations placed on ammonia emissions,” he adds. “Ammonia is becoming an ever-more prevalent topic due to EU targets.

The aim of a BPEX trip to Flanders, a region where tight environmental legislation already exists, was to assess what English pig producers could learn from the Flemish system.
Another study tour to Ireland saw English producers and BPEX team members investigate how producers have adopted building technologies to improve ventilation.

Click here to view the BPEX Live webinar with photos and findings from these trips. 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Novel alternative to classroom learning

BPEX is encouraging producers to try out its Practical Pig App as a simple and free way to help build practical skills on pig units. Some stockmen don’t always feel that comfortable in a classroom environment and can struggle to learn but producers are finding the app provides an interactive and engaging way to learn on farm with someone they know.

Managers and staff can use the app in situ out on the unit, via a smart phone, tablet or by viewing the app’s video clips on the office PC.The app now has nearly 100 short video clips that demonstrate practical techniques, covering breeding and wean-to-finish systems, both indoor and outdoor.

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.

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.

Go to: practicalpig.bpex.org.uk or play.google.com or www.apple.com and search for BPEX Practical Pig App.


Monday, 12 January 2015

Catch up online with pig producer event presentations

Videos of all the speakers at the BPEX Regional Producer Events are available to catch up with online. The programme featured presentations on how to improve key aspects of pig production management at every stage of the cycle from insemination through to sale, in order improve the pig meat output for every square metre of the unit. 

The events identified key aspects of pig management from breeding through to finishing where changes can be made to improve output. It requires a combination of a number of things; there’s no silver bullet.

The presentations and on-farm video footage offer plenty of practical take-home messages for people who work with the pigs day to day.

In the breeding herd, the speakers covered what makes the biggest difference to weaned pig quality and how to manage the small pig at weaning.

The ‘growth challenge’ in the finishing herd was also addressed and the programme concluded with a discussion of the costs per kg of pig meat produced and the importance of routine data collection and analysis.

To watch the presentations, click here 

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