Improved pig outputs set to feature at Pig & Poultry Fair

Boosting herd performance is one topic that will be covered at next month’s Pig & Poultry Fair in Warwickshire. Richard Allison reports

Closing the performance gap between UK and Danish herds is a key aim of the British Pig Executive (BPEX), and this year the target is for an extra pig weaned a sow a year and improved feed conversion.

UK indoor herds are currently achieving 24 weaned pigs a sow a year, while the Danes are ahead at 29 a sow, says BPEX head of technical Andrew Knowles.

“Some farmers will point to the different welfare standards being the reason. Yes, you can put two pigs a sow a year down to the different welfare standards, but they are still three pigs ahead and we are looking at how they do it,” he says.

See also Biomass comes to the fore at Pig & Poultry Fair

BPEX’s Breed +3 initiative, to be showcased at the Pig & Poultry Fair, aims to help farmers wean three extra pigs. “That’s whether they’re currently averaging 23 pigs weaned or if they’re already at 27,” he says.

Event information

  • Tickets The fair is free to attend, but visitors will be required to register on the day or register online before the event
  • Location Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire CV8 2LZ
  • Opening times Tuesday 13 May 2014, 9am-5pm and Wednesday 14 May 2014 9am-4pm

The initiative was launched last year and as it is a three-year project, the aim this year is to add an extra pig this coming year, he explains.

Current sows have the genetic potential to produce 40 weaned pigs a year and it is a case of managing them to minimise the loss in this potential at all stages of pig production, he says.

Mr Knowles believes this is down to doing all the “small”, daily things to a high standard.

One example is Suffolk pig farmer Robin Brice and his son James from Rattlerow Farms, who are continually looking for ways to improve the performance of their 720-sow herd.

To achieve higher numbers born alive and reduce mortality, they introduced routine night checks two or three nights during farrowing week.

Since making the changes, they have seen numbers born alive increase from 11.4 to 12.34, while pre-weaning mortality has fallen from 11.2% to 9.16%.

Five reasons to attend the fair

  • Seminars: A programme of seminars will be running with the theme of helping you “grow your business” in 2014 and beyond. The spotlight will be on key aspects of your business from buying feed, to cutting energy costs. Chairing the egg sector outlooks is Poultry World editor Philip Clarke. Go to our dedicated fair page for the full seminar programme.
  • New products and free advice: Many off the 300-plus pig and poultry companies exhibiting use the event to launch their latest products, such as equipment, new ideas, nutrition and animal health.
  • AgriTech cash: A special forum will be held in the Forum Theatre on Tuesday at 3.30pm, aimed at helping pig and poultry stakeholders access a £90m pot of government money for innovation in agriculture. 
Pre-registration is necessary at www.pigandpoultry.org.uk
  • Renewable energy opportunities: Leading biomass expert Rural Energy has teamed up with Lumicity and Bernard Matthews to offer two presentations on each day that will reveal how the renewables technology can help your business grow and help you save money.
  • BPEX strategy: The British Pig Executive is launching its new strategy for the next three years, unveiling its plans over that period, including marketing activities, technical issues and a clearer engagement with levypayers.

Being there to make sure piglets have good colostrum has also seen improvements in weaning weights. The result was an extra three pigs weaned, with the average at 26 pigs a sow a year.

“If we can keep increasing numbers born alive, without mortality increasing, then night checks will have really paid off,” says Robin.

To help other farmers, this year BPEX launched its Practical Pig app, effectively a library of short, on-farm video clips showing best practice in day-to-day tasks. The app covers breeding and is available on iPhones and Android smartphones.

“The app’s practical video clips provide a visual way of demonstrating important pig husbandry tasks, featuring commentary from pig vets and producers,” says Mr Knowles. “The clips currently cover all aspects of breeding herd management on both indoor and outdoor units.”

BPEX is putting the finishing touches to additional video clips focusing on finishing, and it will be available in time for the fair or shortly after, he says.

One positive, as Mr Knowles points out, is that the industry is starting to make progress. In the 10 years between 2002 and 2012, the Danes saw a 5.8 pigs a sow a year weaned improvement, while the UK only saw a 2.81 increase.

“However, in the past two years, Denmark saw a 1.5 pig improvement, while the UK was close behind at 1.2.”

Only the Danes and Germans were seeing greater improvement than the UK, and other key EU pig producing countries, such as the Netherlands and France, were further behind. Hopefully, this means the gap will start to narrow in the coming years, he concludes.

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