Legislation around the world is requiring farmers to convert to loose sow housing. As we transition our hog barn designs, we are all learning from one another on how to make group housing more efficient and productive than gestation stall barns. Through our learning and dozens of conversions and new builds, we have found Nedap Electronic Sow Feeding equipment and proper gestation pen design to be the key factors in a successful loose sow housing facility.
In 2010, we had the privilege of hosting a group of Australian farmers, lead by Geoff Handley (Managing Director at Riverbend Pork Group), who were interested in learning more about Nedap's ESF equipment and our hog barn designs. It was our goal to educate them on group gestation pen design so they could consider this option for their barns in Australia. Read what Geoff Handley had to say about learning from previous loose housing barns"
Exploring Loose Sow Housing in Canada
“As a consultant “Production Nutritionist” I know that there is a strong and unbreakable link between good nutrition, sow management and production outcomes. Canada has a high output per sow with all the farrowing and gestation shed challenges that brings, so what better place to take 4 of my best farmers to learn a few trade secrets to take back home to Oz. Kevin was a great host to our group and, amongst other things, showed us a very high producing farm that used Nedap large group sow housing equipment as its point of difference. We were blown away by the results that were being achieved, and quickly became convinced that the ESF hog barn design and functionality were key to those good results. The barns were so quiet and stress free, and yet these groups of 250 to 300 kilo animals were roaming freely around the sheds. It’s hard to imagine what was “unbelievable” at that time (2010) has become the norm for our group of farms in Oz in 2017. The group came home ONLY talking about “that farm”, and not any of the other systems we had spent 2 weeks viewing.
We were almost believers, but surely not!
There must be other gate designs, layouts, feed delivery systems, and central separation that could combine to not only fit with the animals' behaviour, but also guarantee good production results at the same time. I spent a year researching – controllers on back gates (no), slides over feed bowls (no), swing out feed bowls (no), separation on the ESF (no). Over time, I could see the weaknesses in other systems, and the well thought out benefits of the Nedap system. We Aussies are such doubters, so 12 months later (2011) a few of us returned to only view Nedap farms, but not just the best ones – we wanted to see the average ones also. This was to rule out our last “distrust” that it must be only management that set "that farm" apart. Four farms visits later (a big thank you again to Kevin, Kase and Tim) of various stocking rates, experience of stock hands, genetic types and feed types, we found that amazingly, the sow housing system performs well across all those other inputs. We must now be believers. We ordered our first 600 sow Nedap ESF system before we left the country!
Since 2011, 7 of my directly linked farming systems have adopted the systems and management techniques that we learnt from Nedap, New Standard, Kevin, Kase and Tim. We’ve worked with them on new and better training systems for our girls. We have been strong advocates for the Nedap system, so now there are many other unrelated producers taking up the technology in Australia. Almost exclusively, our systems have been shed re-fits to fit Australia’s nil gestation stall policy by 2017. Nedap equipment takes less space than other systems, so we were able to achieve the same sow numbers per shed as with gestation crates. After the learning phase, production has returned to or exceeded gestation stall results. With each new farm in our group, the lessons we have learnt have reduced the time back to good production results.
We would never go back to gestation stalls, even if legislation allowed it.
Kevin, Kase and Tim were so knowledgeable, so passionate and so helpful that this major change to Queensland and now Aussie systems would not have been possible without them. Through their being open with their experiences and generosity with their time and support, our group is a leading pig producing group in Oz. Thank you New Standard – you certainly brought a new standard to our group!”
--Geoff Handley, Riverbend Pork Group