BPEX blog

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
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