BPEX blog

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.