17 November 1995

Stockmanship in need of a boost

By Jonathan Riley

LACK of training, motivation and adequate reward for stockmen has resulted in serious shortfalls in their quality and deployment, says Dr Peter English of the University of Aberdeen.

Speaking at a conference organised by the British Pig Association held at the East of England Showground, Peterborough, Cambs, Dr English said: "Such shortfalls are now the most serious constraint in improving welfare, health and production efficiency of our farm livestock.

"The greatest factor in varying performance of UK pig herds is the differing standards of management and stockmanship imposed on a system.

"This has a far greater influence on output and efficiency than the system itself," said Dr English.

Research in Australia showed seven- to 13-week-old pigs exposed to poor handling had growth rates of 404g/day compared with growth rates of 455g/day in pigs handled well.

Pregnancy rates in gilts were 88% in well-handled animals, while rates were 33% on farms where stockmanship was poorest.

And sows showed depressed reproductive performance.

In a survey carried out by Aberdeen University, strong support was expressed for regular training in the workplace and most stockmen agreed that training would improve their potential as a pig man.

"Providing effective motivation for stockmen must be carried out in a number of complementary approaches.

"Advancement ladders or career development plans should be based on simple and relatively inexpensive systems of assessment of the stockmans ability, and work in general to encourage good stockmanship,"said Dr English.

&#8226 For Tescos pledge of commitment to the UK pig industry, made at the BPA conference by buying controller Stan Burns, see p50 of the Smithfield FarmTech supplement.

&#8226 Reduces growth rates.

&#8226 Knocks fertility.

&#8226 Increases stress levels.

Stockmanship is one of the major factors in improving production levels of UK pig herds.