Numerous measurable benefits are being delivered to pig producers by members of the Feed Adviser Register (FAR), according to case studies just published by the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC)
Increases in pigs/sow/year; reduced weaning to service intervals; reduced finishing times; and better welfare and sustainability are all among the measureable outcomes provided by FAR members. The register, which is now three-years old, has nearly 1,200 members working across beef, sheep, dairy, pigs and poultry. Until it was founded in 2013, there was no professional recognition, accreditation or national CPD for feed advisers in the UK.
David Hardy is a business manager with Provimi who advises pig producers in Yorkshire, and the subject of one of AIC’s case studies.
“I firmly believe that being a FAR member gives producers confidence that the advice they receive is to a high standard, and the people giving this advice are well qualified,” he says. “I also see it as a benefit that in an industry where customer confidence in finished goods produced on farm is paramount, the FAR scheme recognises experience and qualifications used in this process.”
To qualify for full membership, feed advisers must have a minimum of 12 months’ experience. Those with less experience can enrol as development members. After 12 months, during which their advice is supervised by a full member of FAR, and/or they have completed the necessary training and i-Validation questions, they can upgrade to full membership.
FAR members have to renew their membership every 12 months following completion of the core competencies. Advisers on the register are audited to ensure their training and experience is legitimate, and since the beginning of this year they have been able to validate their core competencies online. The first two modules introduced cover animal feed planning, and links from feed to animal health and fertility.
Producer benefits from the FAR include:
- the assurance of professionally recognised and up-to-date advice;
- recommended feed regimes that are best for animal health and well-being;
- advice that will reduce costly inputs, increase yields and, therefore, reduce the enterprise’s carbon footprint; and
- advice that meets the needs of both industry and governments.
One of the original drivers behind the launch of the FAR was the need to reduce the carbon footprint of livestock businesses in line with the Government’s Greenhouse Gas Action Plan. Across the whole of agriculture, the industry needs to reduce emissions by about 11% by 2020.
While other aspects of agriculture had schemes to provide training, CPD and knowledge transfer, there was nothing for feed advisers. This year, AIC will introduce a third core competency module that will cover environmental emissions and policies.
The technical manager for feed and the FAR at the AIC, Inge Verwoerd, says issues around the environment and greenhouse gas emissions are going to become increasingly important for everyone in the livestock industry.
“Feed advisers will need to add expertise in this area to their skillset in order to stay at the cutting edge,” she says.While reducing the carbon footprint of livestock businesses is central to the register’s aims, it’s already proved to have many benefits for feed advisers and producers alike. For the first time, advisers have a national structure for training and CPD, and a consistent form of professional recognition.
Recent case studies published by the FAR in the pig sector include one with David Hardy, and one on the partnership between independent feed adviser Alan Ford and Trouw Nutrition expert Dr Sian Nichols, who are both FAR members. While Sian provides knowledge transfer from the latest research and development from around the world, Alan provides hands-on advice on a wide range of subjects as well as feed.
Sian and Alan worked with a 240-sow breeding and finishing unit over a three-year period. At the beginning of the period, the unit produced about 22 pigs/sow/year. By the end of the period this had risen to 29.92.
The work was undertaken in conjunction with the producer to increase yield while improving welfare and sustainability. Activities included the practical application of research on farm; introduction of new products to the diet; reduced weaning-to-service intervals; better vitamin levels including folic acids; and a new vaccination regime.
David Hardy has worked for Provimi for four years and has seen several concepts come to market to address productivity, along with sustainability and improved welfare. He believes one key to success is having enthusiastic, forward-thinking producers willing to try new techniques. Each day, David makes two to three visits in the East Yorkshire area sharing his knowledge on piglet creep feeding.
It’s well documented that modern genotype sows are becoming more prolific, but these extra piglets born alive still struggle as sows’ milk production doesn’t necessarily increase at the same rate to ensure healthy piglets which grow well. In the past, smaller piglets have struggled and, therefore, weaned at lighter weights than their litter mates.
Published figures show that an extra 300g weight at weaning will take one day off the time to slaughter, and heavier, healthier piglets make the change more easily to creep feed.
David visited a producer who was seeing increased litter size and the associated problems this brings, so he recommended RescueCup feeders – part of the rescue system designed by Provimi to provide supplementary milk in the farrowing crate. This milk provides piglets with a vital source of protein and energy as the formulation precisely matches the requirements of young piglet metabolism. The system allowed the producer to increase the number of piglets weaned by 0.5 pigs/sow/year and increased the average weaning weight by 390g. Increased output and less time to finishing meant the changes also reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
For Inge Verwoerd, the publication of the case studies is an important step forward for the register.
“To date, we’ve been measuring the success of the register by the increasing membership and the high numbers that are completing the core competencies and using the online CPD resources,” she says. “The development of these case studies has given us the chance to demonstrate how feed advisers are making a real difference out in the field.
“We’ll be using them in our meetings with governments, but also with industry assurance schemes. This will add to the benefits for both advisers and producers. I would certainly urge any advisers who aren’t yet part of the register to join, and for producers to ensure that the feed advice they use comes from a FAR member.”
More information on FAR can be found online at: www.feedadviserregister.org.uk