Changing face of the swine world
Drs. Jennifer Brown and Egan Brockhoff shared a raft of exciting findings and research related to pig health at the 2018 Alberta Farm Animal Care Livestock Care Conference in Olds, Alta., March 15, 2018.
Dr. Brown spoke candidly about how the shift towards antibiotic free systems will be important when producers are moving onto new systems compliant with changing industry standards and expectations.
“We have to think about them in a different way again,” said Dr. Brown regarding the current systems in place, including antibiotic use, gestational housing and concentrated diets. “The rubber is hitting the road and now we’re working with industry and seeing major changes and improvements.”
She said Canadian swine producers should be proud of what they’ve done and said with new space allowances, practices related to tail docking, castration, life enrichment and housing options will be critical to the next generation of integrated swine management.
Dr. Brockhoff also spoke of the new developments in the industry and talked about how swine welfare has never been better in Canada. While there have been many changes and more coming, producers are beginning to take measures to improve outcomes for their swine in many different ways.
He said producers are moving pigs into new dynamic finisher barns that are very effective. Before, static groups in a pen would cause many issues, including fighting.
“Now, we have dynamic groups with electronic sow feeders (ESF),” he said. “Each pen has a weight curve. There’s 15-20 animals moving into new pens constantly and the farmer doesn’t even have to handle the pigs until loading and processing.”
In addition, new handling practices from human labour has made great gains for the overall health of the pigs. With electronic modules for employees to learn from standardized modules, people are tested on 70 key competencies. The results have been dramatic: 85 per cent competency vs. 59 per cent when learning from a manager in a barn situation.
“It’s important to set the tone properly with swine health management because people will repeat the actions of others around them,” he said.
Brockhoff also talked about simple, yet highly effective systems such as no ramp loading onto trucks for pigs and how the stress levels and incidents have gone done because the animals have difficulty ascending and descending.