Life begins with VIDA

Officially launched in October 2015, ForFarmers’ new VIDA range of piglet feeds is the first to be developed in conjunction with the company’s Nutrition Innovation Centre in The Netherlands. The new feeds have been produced to meet the significant challenges and stress that today’s piglets experience in the period from birth through to the post-weaning period.

Immediately post-birth, young piglets have to compete for sufficient colostrum and milk to ensure optimum liveweight gain and to trigger the animal’s natural immune system. And around weaning, the piglet’s gut must adapt rapidly to many changes, including the introduction of solid feeds. The fact this process occurs while the piglet’s immune system is developing, increases its vulnerability.

The ForFarmers’ UK team, including national pig technical manager John Boyd, piglet starter specialist Gwyn Jones and monogastric nutritionist Steve Wilson, have all been closely involved in the project with their Dutch colleagues, as well as representatives from ForFarmers’ Belgian and German teams.

And that’s not all, piglet starter feed research carried out by BOCM PAULS before it became part of ForFarmers has also been a feature of the development process. It was trials conducted by the business some years ago that proved the value of feeding a high-quality diet both pre- and post-weaning. In fact, it was shown that every extra 10g/day liveweight gain achieved in the two weeks after the weaning period was worth an extra 1kg of liveweight at slaughter.

A strict quality-control regime applies to all ingredients delivered to the mill

A strict quality-control regime applies to all ingredients delivered to the mill

The VIDA project was also the first collaboration between ForFarmers and Trouw Nutrition. Operating under the Milkiwean banner, this research and development partnership offers a level of innovative nutritional solutions not seen before. Working together, the pair’s knowledge of raw materials, specific production facilities and their combined scientific research, together with ForFarmers’ strong customer relationships and local expertise, makes VIDA a unique and leading concept, designed to deliver a lifetime of total piglet performance.

VIDA objectives
When developing the new piglet range, ForFarmers and Trouw had to first address a range of pig producers’ objectives including: lower disease and mortality; improved uniformity and consistency in bodyweights; and enhanced financial results. At the same time, the VIDA range has to meet all the expectations pig producers would normally have from their feed supplier. These included: feeding concepts and programmes that are easy to understand and apply; consistent, safe and high-quality feed; providing the very best piglet rearing and nutritional advice; and consistent levels of delivery and service.

The new VIDA piglet starter range has, therefore, been developed to ensure total piglet performance from birth to slaughter, and to maximise returns for the producer. It does this by offering the best solution to meet the many challenges piglets face in each phase of their young lives. To do this, the new range includes: a milk replacer (VIDA Milk) offering supplementary nutrition in addition to the sow’s natural milk supply; a pre-starter feed (VIDA Pre Starter) containing highly digestible protein sources aimed at increasing the piglet’s appetite and to prepare the gut for solid feed; and a unique precision-feeding concept for feeding from weaning up to 50 days to maximise feed intake and to encourage healthy growth.

The business end of Bury mill. These two pelleters can be set up to produce pellets from 6mm in diameter down to the 2mm pellets used for the VIDA range

The business end of Bury mill. These two pelleters can be set up to produce pellets from 6mm in diameter down to the 2mm pellets used for the VIDA range

There are a number of differences in the production and management systems between the UK and the Continent that have been taken into account in the design and preparation of the specifications of the new VIDA product range. Despite these differences, the products can be fed from birth up to 28kg, and in many situations can be fed well into the grower phase.

Each of the starter and link diets in the range are available in a number of specifications. The top two VIDA product ranges in the UK are called Ultima and Maxima. Ultima has been developed specifically to meet the needs of the UK market.

The specifications of the VIDA diets will, however, be continuously reviewed in order to make sure that they are appropriate for prevailing UK market conditions. This is particularly relevant with the developing interest in reducing in-feed medication, which is likely to impact on the animals utilisation of key nutrients.

Unique elements
There are four unique elements that set ForFarmer’s VIDA range apart from competitors. Along with the unique Milkiwean collaboration between ForFarmers and Trouw Nutrition, these include: an exclusive range of quality ingredients; dedicated production facilities; and personal expertise and professional support.

The extruder at ForFarmers’ Bury St Edmunds mill uses a combination of heat, pressure and moisture to break up the starch molecules  in wheat, oats and soya beans

The extruder at ForFarmers’ Bury St Edmunds mill uses a combination of heat, pressure and moisture to break up the starch molecules in wheat, oats and soya beans

The use of quality ingredients begins with quality control measures for every delivery arriving at the company’s mills. These are carried out to a very high level that meets exacting auditing standards.

The VIDA range contains highly digestible raw materials that are cleaned and finely ground. These include extruded wheat, oats and soya bean meal, that maximise protein digestibility and enhance gut health. The extruding process uses a combination of heat, pressure and moisture to break up the starch molecules so the gut enzymes can get a head start with the digestion process. A full list of the special nutritional factors in the VIDA range can be seen in Table 1.

ForFarmers_Bury_Table

ForFarmers’ Bury St Edmunds mill has an extruder installed that’s been an important tool in the development of the VIDA range. And the production team at the site has also been involved in optimising the feeds across the company’s European sites by providing advice on getting the hardness of the feed pellets just right. As a true centre of excellence for the new range, Bury St Edmunds will produce VIDA feeds for the whole UK market.

Professional support
As you might expect, the new VIDA range is supported by a team of professional specialists with expertise in piglet nutrition and production. The ForFarmers’ team of technical advisers understands the pig producers’ daily business and the many challenges they face.

ForFarmers’ operations manager at Bury St Edmunds, David Thackery (centre), has helped advise the UK VIDA team on producing the new range

ForFarmers’ operations manager at Bury St Edmunds, David Thackery (centre), has helped advise the UK VIDA team on producing the new range

It has at its disposal a broad and practically based range of tools, including apps for mobile devices, that allow it to advise the best feeding programme for individual pig units.

Here in the UK, the Ultima and Maxima ranges are broken down into several specific formulations that suit different situations. ForFarmers’ specialists will use information including the weaning age, weaning weight and sow productivity figures to recommend the best combination of feeds from the VIDA range to maximise farm performance.

Trials carried out to date on more than 26,000 piglets, including about 2,680 on six units in the UK, have shown that the new VIDA range consistently outperforms the BOCM PAULS piglet feeds that they replace.

More than 80% of the piglets fed VIDA starter diets grew at more than 300g/day in the first 14 days post-weaning, and the same number achieved a feed conversion of less than 1.2:1 for the same period.

It’s little wonder, therefore, that ForFarmers considers its new range a game changer among the UK’s piglet starter diets.

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About The Author

Graeme Kirk has been editor of Pig World since March 2013. Born into a farming family in South-west Scotland, he’s spent his career in agricultural journalism.