February 2016: Pastures new!

Since last time, lots of things have happened in my humble life. I decided to leave my role as a consultant in favour of a new job as head of department for the Feed Efficiency team for the Danish SEGES Pig Research Centre (also known as VSP).

Consultancy life was great when I successfully helped producers improve their efficiency and earn more money. It was less glamorous, when I worked with them to fight for survival and constantly battled with banks and creditors.
On one of my favourite farms, I hugged the Ukrainian farrowing house girl before leaving for the last time. We were both teary – she felt someone had finally listened to her, understood her and worked with her. I, in return, had seen her blossom and turn the farrowing house around performance wise. You become close to the people you work with, but I believe it’s also the key to success. When you get under their skin, and they under yours – you work towards a common goal together.

Anyway, I’m back to my roots in R&D, and my first weeks have been filled with getting to know new colleagues, new systems and new routines. I’m continuing with the project management of my big feed project, now with 36 farms, trying to reduce their feed usage further. I will also start working on the stomach ulcer issues we’re battling with in some herds.

Historically, stomach ulcers have been a problem in finishing pigs, where the main signs have been pale pigs with poor performance and feed efficiency, yet no increase in mortality. We now detect stomach ulcers in younger pigs, and are seeing sudden deaths among 70kg-plus pigs that are caused by stomach ulcers (found at post mortem). Feed coarseness, fibre and structure are among the preventative measures or the cure, but we need to know the cause.

Within the past month, we’ve also increased the recommendations for lysine and phosphorus content in diets for lactating sows. We believe the old recommendations didn’t accommodate the high-yielding sows we now have on our farms. In trials, we found that with the new recommendations, we would see an increase in milk yield and subsequent litter gain (total kg out of the farrowing house), as well as the sows losing less of their body condition during lactation. We also believe that a two-component feeding regime for sows at the entrance into the farrowing house and until weaning (one diet until day three post-farrowing and another diet until weaning) will cover the sow and piglets’ needs much more.

However, we must now be aware that with the new recommendations, feeding a lactation diet to the sows in the service area and in the four-week period until moving sows to the gestation unit, is far too expensive. This is currently common practice. A cheaper solution must be sought, but it’s challenged by the number of feed lines and pipes we have on the majority of the pig units today, and the banks are reluctant to lend money to invest in new feeding systems at the moment.

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About The Author

Lisbeth Shooter is a former BPEX knowledge transfer manager who’s now head of department for feed efficiency at the Danish Pig Research Centre.