Producers know their best management practices, but need to boost consistent implementation
Small changes, like water management, can yield significant cost savings
By Lilian Schaer for Livestock Research Innovation Corporation
There’s plenty of research happening in the pig industry in Canada and around the world. But how much of that research is actually translated for on-farm use and adopted by farmers?
In Canada, it turns out that hog farmers have a fairly high understanding of what the best management practices (BMPs) are in each area of their barn.
The challenge is consistent, daily use of those BMPs, according to an audit of swine farms carried out by researchers with Prairie Swine Centre and Centre de développement du porc du Québec (CDPQ) as part of Swine Innovation Porc, the national pork research cluster.
A total of 24 farms were audited regarding best management practices in eight key areas: on-farm biosecurity, personal protection and training, washing procedures, sow housing, farrowing systems, nursery and finishing facilities, and managing water intake.
“A barn is a constantly moving, dynamic system so sometimes the daily checklist things get lost in the daily hustle and bustle,” says Ken Engele of the Prairie Swine Centre, who worked on the project. “Daily routines fall apart as you get busy, but overall, people know what needs to be done.”
And sometimes it can be relatively small things that can make a significant difference if they’re addressed.
Water and nipple drinker management, for example, was identified in the study as an area where producers should focus more attention. About 60% of finishing barn drinkers are providing too much water, which ends up in the pits for disposal. Not adjusting water flow rates translates into a lost opportunity of $2.35 per pig, says Engele.
Feed is also being wasted. The survey found about one third of feeders provide too much feed to pigs, leading to increased feed waste in the barn.
“If I use Prairie Swine data, a one percent increase of feed waste is worth $1.10 per market hog,” Engele says. “It just takes someone to pay a bit more attention to detail.”
The study also found that not a lot of farmers had adopted environmental enrichment for pigs in their barns, although it is now part of the national Code of Practice for pigs. Examples of enrichment include things like visual of physical contact with other pigs, wood on a chain or ropes to play with, or multiple types of feed.
“Enrichment is fairly cheap but easily overlooked – pigs will fight less, bite tails less etc.,” says Geneviève Berthiaume of the CDPQ, who also worked on the project. “It’s easily done and can have great results.”
Results were fairly consistent across the country although both researchers note that hydrogen sulfide monitors were found much more commonly in Western Canada than Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
Following a Saskatchewan incident with hydrogen sulfide that resulted in three fatalities in the late 1990s, Prairie Swine Centre developed a hydrogen sulfide management course and offered training to farmers in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
“Things can be out of sight, out of mind if you don’t have a problem; if you never have an issue, it’s not likely to be top of mind,” Engele says in explaining the regional difference.
Participating farms were located in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Each received a detailed report highlighting their farm’s performance, and benchmarking against other participating farms, in addition to suggesting improvements.
Data gathered from the audits also resulted in a series of fact sheets for farmers about how everyday practices could be improved, as well as videos, laminated checklists, newsletter articles and presentations at industry events like London Swine Conference.
Copies of the fact sheets are available from Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) swine specialist Laura Eastwood by emailing email@example.com.
According to Engele, most highlighted issues could be addressed fairly easily and quickly without significant amounts of time, labour, and dollars required – and so could be easily adopted by producers. Researchers hope to repeat the audit as part of the newest Swine Innovation Porc cluster now under way with the same 24 farms, as well as 16 additional ones.
“We want to know why or what the limitations are in adopting BMPs so that we can find ways to get information out there to encourage producers to adopt changes that are seemingly small but can have huge impacts,” says Berthiaume.
The project was funded by Swine Innovation Porc through Swine Cluster 2, which received support from Agriculture and Agri?Food Canada’s AgriInnovation Program, provincial producer organizations and industry partners.
This article was published in Ontario Hog Farmer, July/August 2019. It is provided by Livestock Research Innovation Corporation as part of its ongoing efforts to report on Canadian livestock issues, research developments and outcomes.