COMMENT: There was a renewed sense of optimism among pig producers at this year's Pig Farmers Conference, which was held in Cavan last week. The good attendance was undoubtedly the largest among any pig meetings in recent times.
Ciaran Carroll, head of Teagasc's pig development department opened the conference with an update on the Teagasc/Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Pig Joint Programme, which included an updated website for the Pig Development Department that can be found at www.teagasc.ie/pigs/. Also mentioned was that the FETAC pig course, delivered jointly by Teagasc and Clonakilty and Ballyhaise Agricultural Colleges, is open for registration.
Dr Stefan Buzoianu spoke on a new project, which was launched last February that he and Dr Peadar Lawlor are involved in. A whole-systems approach to optimising feed efficiency and reducing the ecological footprint of monogastrics or in short 'ECO-FCE' is a FP7 EU project involving 17 partners from both the pig and broiler industry. It is hoped that pig producers will see a better feed conversion efficiency, better gut health, reduced output of pollutants and a new decision management tool when the project is completed. Further details for this project can be found at www.ecofce.eu.
Dr Dayane Teixeira delivered a presentation on the development of ante and post mortem meat inspection of pigs as a welfare diagnostic tool. This research update was a result of studies into tail biting and tail lesions at abbatoirs in recent years. Producers were told of the financial implications associated with carcass condemnations after an in-depth economic analysis of these losses were carried out.
PIGWELFIND is a new project supported by funding from the Research Stimulus Fund of the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine and involving a team of researchers from Teagasc, University College Dublin, Queen’s University Belfast and the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise. This three-year project will continue to investigate the potential for including indicators of pig health and welfare in the meat inspection process at pig slaughter factories.
Dr Laura Boyle gave an indepth presentation on lameness in pigs. The importance of detection and using a locomotion scoring system was explained along with measures of prevention.
Guest speakers from IAWS, James Nolan and John Bergin, looked at what is driving the grain market and what producers should look at going forward. They concluded that corn value will continue to dominate price evolution and wheat will trade at premium to maize.
Second guest speaker, Denis Healy, veterinary inspector with the Department of Agriculture, discussed the responsible and prudent use of antibiotics on Irish pig farms. Healy detailed the history of antibiotics in the sector and looked at the factors influencing their use on pig farms. He also spoke of what is expected down the line, including the drafting of guidelines for the prudent use of antimicrobials in veterinary medicine by the European Commission.
Irish pig farmers have been renowned for their excellent data recording and Gerard McCutcheon and Shane Brady detailed the newly upgraded Teagasc PigSys record system. It is now part of the Teagasc eProfit Monitor System. The new system allows for more prompt assessment of performance trends in the national herd, individual farmers can access their own record online and these reports can complement existing recording systems used on pig farms. All farms need to measure their own performance and should not be afraid to benchmark their results against other producers. The new Teagasc Recording system is available to all Irish pig producers as part of the Teagasc/IFA Pig Joint Programme.
Dr Amy Quinn and Michael McKeon gave producers a presentation on the top tips for biosecurity. Biosecurity is essential for all pig units and their practical tips would benefit all pig units if they were followed strictly. These included isolating incoming stock, making visitors shower in, obtaining regular AI reports, using a rodent bait plan and operating an ‘All-in/All-out’ system.
Dr Keelin O’Driscoll was recently hired by Teagasc as a research officer to work on a new project with AFBINI, which is being funded by the Department of Agriculture thanks to Dr.Peadar Lawlor. Optimising output per sow or ‘OPTIPIG’ will look at increasing the number of piglets born alive and piglet viability, through nutritional strategies and management strategies to keep young pigs alive.
This year’s pig conference was one not to be missed and all pig producers commended the work of the Teagasc Pig Development Department for putting together an excellent, topical and up-to-date event.
By Shane McAuliffe, Honorary Secretary at Irish Pig Health Society and technical manager of Truly Irish