9 May 1997

Spotlight is on feed to meet tight standards

By Jonathan Riley

FEED sources are coming under greater scrutiny in farm assurance schemes as consumer concerns over genetically modified ingredients and animal-based proteins increase.

To continue selling to Unigate, for example, pig producers must comply with a far reaching assurance protocol which covers everything from feed to pig stocking rates, to the number of fire extinguishers.

Jim Dilworth of Unigates Allied Marketing division, which markets FW Easton Lodge pigs, liaises with an independent auditor to check standards. Mr Dilworth says that supermarkets require total assurance that feeding policy does not compromise the safety of the pigmeat product.

"There has been an outstanding willingness by all pig producers to ensure that all stock welfare aspects are of the highest standards," says Mr Dilworth. Details of many hundreds of herds marketed through the company are stored on a database for ready reference.

"A slap mark on the pig provides the supermarket auditors with a code which enables them to trace the pigs back to the farm of origin and links them with husbandry methods and rations fed," explains Mr Dilworth.

Ingredients used must be traceable back to the source and so must records be kept. This means by-product feeders could adhere to these stipulations but swill feeders would not be able to comply.

In addition to the safety of feed sources used, the nutritional composition of the feed is assessed.

"From a welfare viewpoint we must be able to assure our customers that the pigs receive a ration which keeps them in good health. Feed is checked, therefore, for its suitability and inspectors will provide advice on feed so that welfare is not compromised," says Mr Dilworth.

The scheme also emphasises the importance of an adequate water supply.

At FWs Easton Lodge pig unit – which has recently been audited – additional drinking points have been installed to comply with the Unigate scheme.

Unit manager Jasper Renold explains that extra drinking points have now been installed in the relevant pens so that there is one drinker for 10 pigs.

The Unigate scheme also stipulates that feed mills used must have attained the ISO 9002 standard. This is a production quality assurance standard that covers all aspects of a feed mills operation including the keeping of feed source records and makes them available for inspection.

All of the mills used by Easton Lodges pig feed buying group have reached this standard.

"Our membership of the group and its method of feed specification gives us control over ration ingredients and would enable us to change any ingredient that Unigate were unhappy about," says Mr Reynolds.

"Feeds are also sampled regularly for nutritional analysis which again stands us in good stead for assurance inspection. This enables us to provide accurate information on pig nutrition very quickly and to spot any contamination should it arise," he adds