Maximising the value of data collected from recording systems commonly used on pig farms in England - Sanne Baden, Pig Improvements
Project duration: 12 months
Performance recording and spending time understanding data helps pinpoint which changes could make the biggest difference to pig performance and cutting costs. All businesses can benefit from spending time understanding trends and patterns in herd performance data as well as establishing what information is most useful to observe on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.
Aims and objectives
- To establish data accuracy and correct inputting of performance data into recording systems
- To work with farm staff to make full use of management reports from recording systems and to build the use of these into the daily routine
- To evaluate key performance indicators against national averages and identify key areas of focus for the herd
- To analyse performance data on an ongoing basis to monitor the effectiveness of interventions.
Project achievements during 2013-2014
- Six farms participated in the trial and received quarterly visits to analyse and make best use of farm data
- There are some performance areas, such as pre-weaning mortality, that several producers found they needed to focus on.
The key points which this trial has highlighted as crucial to maximising the value of data collected from recording systems, are:
- Recording the right data: The first step is to make sure all staff are recording data accurately and that what is actually happening in the herd is reflected in the data itself
- Running regular reports: Sanne Baden has worked with producers in the project to help interpret their existing reports and has also suggested new reports that are useful, which producers may not have been aware of before
- Benchmarking: Before you can set realistic targets, it is sometimes helpful to know what other producers in the industry are doing and what is typical in similar systems
- Target setting: This is central to achieving overall performance objectives, it is essential that all targets are realistic and that everybody knows what is expected of them
- Check progress and monitor interventions: Vets, nutritionists, breeding company representatives and staff are all important to include when working out the cause of a performance issue and what steps can be taken to address it.
Optimising the potential of the small pig through the implementation of best practice in the farrowing house
Optimising the potential of the small pig through the implementation of best practice in the farrowing house
Duration: May 2015-2016
Aims and objectives: To address variable weaning weights and post-weaning performance
Expected benefits: Four days fewer to slaughter and 2% reduced pre-weaning mortality
- A pre-trial survey of high performance breeding units was conducted by John Richardson of Production Performance Services Ltd. in the UK and Denmark to inform best practice. Further details can be found here
- This trial is being conducted on a commercial unit with three batches of sows over a three-month period
- In each of the three batches, there were 28 control sows and 28 test sows. The test sows were managed according to the best practice farrowing house management protocol
- Best practice involved:
- Washing sows before entering the farrowing house
- Checking teats were clean and functional
- Ensuring all farrowings were supervised
- Intervening if more than 40 minutes had elapsed between piglets
- Night-time and hourly checks
- Ensuring piglets were warm and dry within ten minutes of birth
- Split suckling
- Regular cleaning and disinfection of tools
- Dung removal twice daily
- Provision of electrolytes.
- Data from the trial are currently being analysed.
Supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and effects on reproductive performance of sows
Duration: April 2015 – December 2016
Aims and objectives: To address seasonal infertility and increase piglet viability.
The trial: This is a long-term (>12 months) trial running across two dedicated research facilities. There are two groups of sows, control and treatment. The treatment sows will be supplemented with a commercially available source of omega-3 for one full gestation and lactation period.
All sows are being monitored throughout the period of supplementation (both treatment and control) and during the following gestation and lactation, to determine whether there is any carry-over effect of the supplementation.
Expected benefits: The goal of this study is to improve numbers born alive and increase piglet survivability by 2%.
Findings: Supplementation with omega-3 had no significant impact on born alive or mortality/survivability figures. The only significant impact was on sow condition, where those fed the omega-3 diet were found to be significantly fatter (P2 or condition score) than sows on the control diet at first farrowing and throughout the second gestation and lactation.
The cost of adding the omega-3 supplement to the diet was C.£21/T.
Investigation of the effect of allocating 50% and 100% more feeder space on the performance of growing-finishing pigs
Duration: April 2015-2016
Aims and objectives: To investigate the effect of doubling feeding space for growth.
The trial: The trial has been run on two dedicated research sites, one with flat-deck weaner accommodation and one with slatted grower-finisher accommodation, allowing 600, 900 and 1,200mm of trough space per pen of 25 pigs.
Findings: No significant impact was observed on production parameters (DLWG and FCR) in the flat-deck system. No significant impact on DLWG was observed in the slatted accommodation either during the whole period from nine weeks of age through to slaughter, nor between any individual weighing (every two weeks during this period).
It is worth noting that this work was only carried out on a couple of farms and the impact of such changes may be affected by the type of feeder, layout of pen, food, competition, genetics, etc. We are looking for more farms to get involved so that we can get a wider representation of systems. Get in if you would like to know more: Dominic.email@example.com
Investigation of the effects of varying space allowance (stocking density) on the performance of growing-finishing pigs
Duration: April 2015 - September 2015
Aims and objectives: To investigate the effect of increased space allowance for growth.
The trial: Conducted at a university research site, pigs were housed at different stocking densities, using three varying space allowances: 0.68, 0.77 and 0.85m2. Pigs were monitored over five batches from nine weeks through to slaughter.
Findings: There was no significant impact of the varying space allowances on performance as a whole. However, there was significant variation between the smallest space allowance (0.68m2) and the largest space allowance (0.85m2) during two-week periods.
|Age (weeks)||DLWG increase (g/day)||Total additional growth (g)|
While the increase in space allowance produced a significant difference in DLWG during this time period, DLWG over the whole period remained unchanged. This means that while the growth curve of the pigs altered slightly there is no real growth/financial benefit to the additional space allowance.
It is worth noting that this work was only carried out on a couple of farms and the impact of such changes may be affected by the type of feeder, layout of pen, food, competition, genetics, etc. We are looking for more farms to get involved so that we can get a wider representation of systems. Get in touch if you would like to know more: Dominic.charman.ahdb.org.uk
Evaluation of ultra-high frequency (uhf) electronic ear tags to optimise marketing strategies on farm Duration: January 2015-February 2016
Duration: January 2015-February 2016
Aims and objectives: To test the practicalities of using UHF technology on farm, integrating this data into existing management systems (on farm and at the abattoir) and using it to inform better management decisions.
The trial: The trial is looking at individual tagging of piglets so that performance data can be tracked on a pig-by-pig basis throughout the production system. Crucially, the project has also involved cooperation with a large-scale abattoir in which a UHF tag reader has been installed. This allows slaughter data to be sent back to the farm and attributed to individual pigs. More than 1,800 pigs have been tagged and weighed individually at birth.
Expected benefits: The development of a low cost tagging system, allowing the integration of both on-farm and abattoir data, could mean that, for farms running day-to-day trial work, such as comparing rations, performance from different buildings or vaccination programmes, the data could be easily and automatically collected and assimilated into one place.
The easier collection and assessment of data and the ability to attribute it to specific animals would make carrying out on-farm cost benefit analysis a relatively simple and powerful exercise.
The benefits of UHF tags over alternative, readily available, tags include:
- Considerably reduced cost (30p vs £1.40)
- Easier to read in bulk, ie scanning a group of pigs will return all tag numbers
- Easier to read from a further distance.
Findings to date: A standard operating procedure (SOP) has been developed for using the system, the key features of this include:
- Tagging should be carried out when the piglets are first processed, ie day 1 or 2
- The same ear should be tagged for all pigs
- The male part of the tag should be positioned on the outside of the ear for improved retention rates.
By following the SOP, more than 98% of tags have been retained and were readable at the abattoir.
Additional Work: In addition to the original trial, approximately 1,800 piglets have been tagged and weighed at birth at the AHDB Pork focus farm. These pigs will be followed through to slaughter where, in addition to the useful data they will provide for the focus farm project, retention rates will also be recorded.
Evaluation of a carcase cooling container
Duration: 2015- 2016
Aims: To evaluate the operation and performance of cooling containers for the on-farm storage of dead pigs (fallen stock) in England.
The trial: Two carcase cooling containers have been installed on trial sites. The containers are fitted with a mains-powered refrigeration unit, connected with a 16amp plug.
The temperature inside and outside the container is recorded to monitor performance and each of the containers has been fitted with a meter to monitor the exact energy consumption.
Expected benefits: Potentially improved biosecurity and carcase quality for enhanced marketable yield of products derived from rendered material, following storage.
Findings to date:
- Since the initial findings, which showed that the cooling containers kept the contents of the bin between 2 - 7°C, even when the external temperature reached 30°C, the variation in temperature has been reduced by 45%
- Fewer collections are necessary due to the fact that producers on the trial farms are using a bigger bin than previously and because the bins do not get as smelly
- Producers, their staff and the collectors approve of the bins, as they are less smelly and have fewer flies
- Electricity use was in the region of 80p per day during the summer period and less during cooler times of the year
Further information: http://pork.ahdb.org.uk/environmentbuildings/fallen-stock/carcase-cooling/
Establishing ammonia emission factors for straw-based finishing pig buildings and evaluating improved ventilation systems
Duration: 14 months
Aims and objectives: To collect and evaluate data for ammonia emission levels within pig sheds. This information is valuable for estimating the environmental impacts and is often required for permitting and planning applications.
The trial: The ammonia concentration in the inlet and exhaust air was measured on two sites, using the ammonia analyser developed by AHDB Pork in conjunction with other organisations. In addition, the number of pigs, weights, feed intake, protein content of diets, ventilation rates, external and internal temperature and relative humidity were also recorded, as per the internationally recognised VERA protocol standardisation.
Expected benefits: More accurately quantified ammonia emissions will assist producers in obtaining consents and permissions for new buildings and in making investment decisions.
Findings to date:
- Initial analysis of data from the first farm (a straw flow based system) has been conducted and results will be available by summer 2017
- The second machine is currently sampling on a fully-slatted unit, with the first two full sets of data being analysed and sent for external verification
- Plans are in place to position a machine on another unit in spring 2017 in order to establish a factor for a part-slatted (low emission design) building and explore the effectiveness of some nutritional interventions on ammonia emissions from part-slatted buildings
- Another unit will also have a machine installed to gather further data on fully-slatted housing and the effects of electronic particle ionisation (EPI)