Animal nutrition and fish feed company Nutreco aims to be ready for future challenges, like feeding the world in 2050. Appreciating that all major progress on a global scale starts with tiny steps in a research farm, Nutreco invested in the expansion of its Swine Research Centre.
By Zanap van Dijk
It looks like the sows are noticing the change too. They lounge about – roaming around a little carefully. Previously they had been housed in stalls, but for a year they have been able to stretch their legs during gestation in the new group housing area.
It's just one of the changes that one can admire at the new Nutreco Swine Research Centre (SRC), in St Anthonis, near Boxmeer, the Netherlands. In fact, the revamped farm is showcasing a lot of other novelties. With the world's meat demands ever increasing, and with the year 2050 in sight, the animal nutrition and fish feed company saw the need to invest in upgrading and expanding its swine nutrition research facilities. In September 2013, Nutreco's CEO Knut Nesse officially opened the farm at a special bustling ceremony which was attended by nutritionists, veterinarians and pig producers from over 25 countries.
The farm, already in existence in the 1960s, took 1.5 years to upgrade.
Quietly nestled in the middle of acres of land, the site now includes a new sow unit, a new animal health unit and a revamped new piglet unit. After the upgrade there are now 160 sow and 1,200 piglet places, and also 600 grow-finisher pigs.
More than ever, the centre is ready for the future in the company's global research process. Should concepts prove successful here, then a next step will be to test them on trial farms all over the world.
Apart from the group housing for gestating sows, the new facilities highlight a range of innovations. Some general innovations include flexible unit and pen sizes for different types of research, the application of air scrubbers and also a climate control system. More specific innovations could be seen on a trip through the farm buildings.
Hubèrt van Hees, manager of swine research, explains why the piglet section has been equipped with viewing galleries. Windows on the right and left side separate visitors from the animals for biosecurity reasons, but they still give a clear view of all animals.
The piglet facility has 12 units with conventional feeders. Here feed intake and growth performance is measured. Also, there are two piglet units with 12 electronic feeding stations (EFS), in which individual feed intake can be measured even though the piglets are group housed. Information on differences in eating patterns, time spent per piglet on feeding, number of visits to the feeder and the amount of feed consumed per visit can be gathered. The piglet units also have video monitoring to study feeding behaviour and piglet interactions. These facilities are a great attribute to the research efforts, supporting the development and constant optimisation of Nutreco's piglet feeding programmes.
Animal health unit
Another addition to the research facility is an animal health unit. In this building, purpose built for challenge studies, the SRC simulates suboptimal husbandry conditions. Researchers can simulate varying field conditions and expose animals to different kinds of factors like increased hygiene pressure and temperature variations. The data collected at these premises will give a clearer picture of the animals' physiological responses and aim to find solutions for the support of performance and health. This is crucial for the development of nutritional solutions for different kinds of practical circumstances. In turn, accessing the full potential of food producing animals will lead to producing food and feed optimally to tackle future food challenges and allow business growth for the feed industry. In the animal health unit 120 animals can be studied at one time.
Last but not least, as described at the start of this article, there is the revamped sow unit. Just like the piglet section, this farm building is also equipped with a viewing gallery.
The sow unit has a room for the group housed gestating sows (with EFS and water intake recording), an insemination room, lactation rooms where the sows have their litters (with and without EFS and water intake recording) and a training room for young animals to use the EFS and a room for boars.
Sow nutrition and water intake is studied, in addition to the development of nutritional strategies to support the sow. As electronic feeders are present in the sow and the piglet units and in the finishing pig unit, data recorded can trace each animal's intake, providing a more complete picture of the eating and drinking behaviour of the
Van Hees: "Our renewed research facilities support Nutreco's four focus areas for innovation: health & welfare, feed efficiency, life start and application solutions - precision feeding."
Nutreco SRC, Boxmeer, the Netherlands
Type: Research farm
Research facilities: Piglet, sow, finishing units
Fattening pigs: 600
Source: Pig Progress magazine Vol 29 nr 10, 2013