A new service pod that has been designed for outdoor sows is being trialled in East Anglia, United Kingdom. The trail will run for 24 months and the hope is that it will improve the litter size and farrowing rate in outdoor systems.
Reproductive performance from the outdoor sector has remained at a sub optimal level. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which, according to feedback from the industry is a need for a well-designed AI area.
The project is a joint venture by BPEX, Easey Pigs and Rattlerow Farms as part of a BPEX field trial. The aim is to provide the right environment for the sow during heat detection and insemination, as well as improving labour efficiency.
Aaron Prime, who manages Andy Cowper's Easey Pigs unit, where the pod is being trialled, says: "We wouldn't want to go back to the old way of serving now we've tried the new service pod.
"We are now able to spend all our time working with the sows, doing heat detection and monitoring them, because the way the tent is set up means there is a continuous flow of gilts or sows. We are never standing around waiting so the time goes really quickly. It's a much easier way of working."
BPEX knowledge transfer manager Richard Bows says: "The service pod has 14 individual AI stalls for sows and gilts, seven on either side of the boar pens, housed inside a tent as normal.
"So far, it is helping sows stay calmer and it is much easier to differentiate whether sows are showing standing heat or are not in heat, so it should mean that timing of service is more accurate. It needs three people to operate the service period at maximum efficiency, although two can cope when there is no alternative.
"We're discussing with Aaron's team how the new system can be developed further, as we are planning to put a second pod on one of Rattlerow Farms' units early next year."
BPEX will know more about the pod's effects on numbers born soon. It is hoped it could help more producers achieve the Breed+3 target to wean more pigs per sow per year.