Blog: Getting hands-on with loose lactation systems

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

I’m now halfway through my placement with AHDB, which follows six months spent with Bedfordia Farms. This is as part of my Pig Industry Scholarship through Harper Adams University.

In January and February I met with the farmers who I’m working with over the next few months. The plan is to spend time working on farms with different loose lactation systems, e.g. PigSAFE and FarrOPEN, so that I can write case studies on each.

As I mentioned in my previous blog in February, prior to my placement I had very little pig experience. However, I gained a huge amount of hands-on experience working with Bedfordia Farms, where they use conventional farrowing crates. The beauty of writing the case studies is that I get to work on-farm, helping the stockpeople, at the same time as collecting the data. This is helping me gain experience of each system to fully understand how they work.

At the start of the loose lactation work, I was a little hesitant about working in free farrowing and temporary crated systems. I was cautious for my safety and the impact it has on piglet mortality. So far, I have completed the first case study on a farm with 360° Freedom Farrower™, Big Dutchman and FarrOPEN systems installed. And let’s just say, I don’t know what I was worrying about!

After working with these systems and seeing how calm and relaxed the sows are, I can honestly say that I prefer working in these loose lactation systems rather than conventional crates. Although a slight increase in mortality might be expected, the Big Dutchman and FarrOPEN make it easy to complete routine tasks, such as administering piglet vaccinations. Additionally, it was fascinating to work with a farmer-built original pen – FarrOPEN. The farmers installed an area at the back of the pen with enough room to enable stockpeople to move out of harm’s way if a sow shows aggressive tendencies. This adaptation is very much appreciated by the stockpeople.

Furthermore, coming from a farming background I have appreciated being on-farm and hearing farmers share their hardships. It’s an extremely difficult time at the moment, with many pig producers still experiencing a backlog of pigs on farm, high feed costs, and ever-increasing oil, fuel and fertiliser prices – let alone the potential impacts of the Ukrainian conflict on these prices.

Keep on sharing; as an agricultural industry we are in this together and no one is alone.

Find out more about the Pig Industry Scholarship

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