EU PiG – Reduction of antimicrobial medication

Dutch farmer Kees van der Meijden has achieved the enviable goal of reducing antibiotic use to almost zero while, at the same time, improving pig performance. The farm is producing 33 piglets per sow per year.

Ambassador: Kees van der Meijden, Netherlands

Publication date: May 2018 

Theme: Health management

Challenges: Reduction of antimicrobial medication

Kees has taken a series of different management steps, which have all combined to achieve these results and lower costs in his unit. It all followed a massive fire in 2013, which meant huge reinvestment in the farm and an opportunity to use new and innovative techniques. It is a 1,000-sow breeding farm, and they are also rearing their pigs.

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“Our goals are high health, a high production level, and to have the best training facilities.

"In 2014, we designed new pig accommodation, focusing on good internal and external biosecurity.

"Animal health is the priority, and hygiene is one of the top factors for this.” – Kees van der Meijden

More than just a reduction in antibiotic use

As well as the major reduction in antibiotic use:

  • Ammonia production has been reduced by 85%, providing cleaner air, improved animal health, a better working environment for the employees and fire protection
  • Improvements in the breeding herd amount to the production of one piglet more per sow per year than a few years ago, and, in the finishing herd, the pigs can reach the right slaughter weight three weeks earlier
  • The pigs are quiet, and the atmosphere is relaxed, which is a good indicator of high animal welfare
  • There is a saving on energy costs through using the cooling plate system, which has a heat exchanger to warm up the water

Reducing antibiotic use to almost zero

There are strict protocols for hygiene throughout the farm, and Kees has different colours to differentiate between animal categories in different parts of the unit to minimise any cross-contamination. For example, in the farrowing room, the corresponding colour is blue, so the flooring and all the main equipment, such as the shovels, are blue.

Beneath the flooring in the farrowing house is a novel cooling system which cools down the manure to under 15°C. The system reduces ammonia at the source and the amount of manure stored within the farm. Kees also re-uses the heat released from the manure as energy for the piglet flooring and other farm facilities, which saves energy costs.

As well as hygiene, the other key factor is staff training and management protocols. Kees has clear, detailed protocols used by all stock workers, so he can unify his working processes.

Stock workers are given practical training, including how to recognise animal behaviour. This way, they all make the same decisions. Everyone gets the same level of information, which means they can consistently deliver good results.

Kees also provides training and education programmes at his facility, designed for investors, pig farm managers and stock workers.

The investment for this business was €1,500 per sow, including the feed system, the building and also the education rooms and terrace.

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