INNOVATION-LED INVESTMENT TAPS MORE PERFORMANCE POTENTIAL
03 April 2020
Bigger huts and better diets bump-up productivity
Investment in new accomodation and a more targeted feeding regime has helped Norfolk farmer Michael Jones improve efficiency and productivity of his 350-sow Landroc herd.
Moving over to precision-made, fully insulated Ardvark and Armadillo farrowing huts has not only improved sow and piglet comfort, it’s also helped lift weaning weights, stabilise sow condition during lactation and reduce the herd’s wean to service interval – factors that are benefitting overall business efficiency and profit potential.
The Jones family are tenant farmers, and run a 311-acre country council holding at Binham, close to the North Norfolk coast. They’ve been pig producers for five years and moved here in 2019 following four successful years running a smaller council farm at Mautby, 50 miles away.
It took just over a year to relocate the business to Binham and their three-week, batch production herd is now settled into the mixed-farming operation. The Jones’ objective is to create a sustainable, stewardship-focused, livestock/arable business, using production systems that are efficient but also capable of supporting the richly diverse environment that exists on this farm.
Consistent and content
Statistics show that Michael’s Landroc sows are consistently rearing more than 11 piglets a litter, with weaning weights between 8.3 and 8.5 kgs at four weeks age. But it’s the improvement made to rebreed interval that has surprised Michael most. He says the number of days from weaning to first service has contracted significantly since he began using Contented Products fully insulated huts. It’s now a consistent 4 to 5 days across all parities, with no change seen to the herds 94% conception rate or any alteration to average numbers born per litter, which remain above 14 with livebirths around 13.9 (six-month average).
Independent nutritionist Alan Ford has helped develop the new feeding strategy. He says the decision to feed a dual-purpose diet to gestating sows and gilts – in this case ForFarmers Nutralac – has been instrumental in improving piglet birthweights and weaner quality.
“You must use good fuel to get good performance and that’s what we are doing here. The right nutritional support pre-farrowing is important, and on this farm the amount fed to dry sows is increased on day 80 of pregnancy, and it’s producing better birthweights and helping lower pre-weaning mortality,” he explains.
“You must use good fuel to get good performance… The right nutritional support is important,” – Alan Ford.
Once farrowed all sows and gilts are given a high-performance lactation diet (MagnaLac). All nursing sows are fed using individual feeders are eating between 11 to 13 kg by day 14.
“Our sows have good appetites and the piglets are robust, feed well and grow quickly. We do offer some creep toward the end of lactation, but piglet growth is really powered by the sow, so we push them to keep milking right up to weaning,” says Michael.
He’s noted particular improvements during the summer, when feed intakes tend to dip as temperatures rise and piglet weights are often lighter, but weaning weights have not fallen below 8.25kg since Michael started the new feeding programme and piglet quality’s being sustained too – results that are also benefitting performance on finishing units his herd supplies.
“I reckon the combination of more space and the comfortable, more controlled environment is helping us get the most of our high feed intake…” – Michael Jones
However, nutrition is not the only factor. Michael says switching to Aardvark and Armadillo farrowing huts has also had fundamental impact on herd performance, as both sows and litters are now in much better condition at weaning, which he believes is due to the superior farrowing/rearing environment achieved inside Contented’s roomy, fully-insulated huts.