…decisions, decisions, to come for 800
UP to 800 pig units have yet to convert from stalls to loose housed systems to comply with the impending stall and tethers ban.
ADAS business consultant Mike Brade says that with only two years to the Jan 1, 1999 deadline, the sheer number of units to change is putting pressure on equipment suppliers and makers.
From the start of decision making to stocking the building is taking over 12 months, and, as the ban approaches, this timespan will lengthen, he warns.
"Many producers consider which feed delivery system to choose as the first point in the decision making process. That is wrong," says Mr Brade.
"First, consider herd size, building design, muck handling and staffing implications for a specific unit, and these decisions should help to indicate which feed system is most suitable.
"If opting for straw, which represents a considerable ongoing cost, there must be a ready supply in the area. There must also be the facilities to handle and store straw and muck."
Deep-bedded systems with larger group sizes generally use more straw than, for example, a straw flow system.
"But smaller group systems, such as trickle feeders, have more gates to operate when bedding up and removing straw, which adds a considerable labour cost," he explains.
To cut the labour needs, Mr Brade urges choosing a building design that provides unrestricted access, so bedding up and muck removal can be carried out quickly.
"The building must also suit the system used. For example, converting a narrow stall house to a loose yard could create access problems. And the units workforce will have to battle with these design faults for many years. When considering a conversion establish whether the building dimensions will allow these tasks to be carried out easily."
In some cases a new building may be a cheaper option.
As for labour, he reckons long-term sow productivity is a key to the business and stock carers may need to be retrained to maintain productivity under a new system.
"Productivity could be easier to manage where sows are kept in smaller groups.
"In larger herds where there are sufficient numbers to be served a week, sows can be grouped according to condition, in trickle feed systems, for example. But on smaller units, there could be a variation in sow condition within the group. So individual equipment such as electronic sow feeders may be better," he adds.
• Two years remaining.
• 800 units still to convert.
• Conversion process taking over 12 months.