AHDB Pork's Focus Farm scheme hailed a success

AHDB Pork’s Focus Farm scheme has been touted as a success after achieving a 61% reduction in pre-weaning mortality. 

This is being attributed to improvements in farrowing house management, staff training and the use of ultra-high frequency ear tags to accurately record causes of death.

Dominic Charman, technical manager at AHDB Pork, said: “The significant drop from 15% to 5.8%, that we’ve seen on David Goodier’s unit, could result in an extra 586 pigs finished per annum.”

Charman said Goodier’s vet, Tom Iveson, carried out a two-day staff training course on the farm to help reduce pre-weaning mortality.

“Tom worked with David and his team to help refine the unit’s split-suckling management strategy and farrowing house routine.”

Following this, ultra-high frequency (UHF) tags were introduced to collect and monitor individual pig data, including reasons for and causes of death, as part of the Focus Farm project.

“We’ve tagged and weighed four batches of piglets since August, and last week we saw the first 40 pigs go through the abattoir.

“This is the first time that UHF tags have been used successfully throughout the entire supply chain and, at slaughter, they provide the ability to combine herd and slaughter level data to give days to slaughter and growth rates.”

Charman said the use of tags had also allowed the team to examine dead piglets carefully.

“We’ve been recording the cause of death for all piglets and I believe this has been key to understanding the issues and has helped with targeted treatment. What’s more, handling and monitoring the pigs more closely has meant that any problems have been ‘nipped in the bud’.

“We’re going to implement further training, which will hopefully help reduce the pre-weaning mortality rate further, especially given the likely increase in litter size following other breeding herd changes, and we’ll work with David to review his pig flow. This will all be unveiled at the next Focus Farm meeting.”

The next Focus Farm meeting takes place on Monday 27 February at the Bridge Hotel, Wetherby LS22 5HS. The start time will be 6pm to finish at 9.30pm. To reserve your place, email Rachel Adamson on: Rachel.Adamson@ahdb.org.uk.

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