Pork integrator HyLife awarded for weaner vaccination ramp

The HyLife invention improves the process of piglet vaccination and sorting for both piglets and workers. Photo: HyLife

2 farm employees from Canada’s pork integrator HyLife received the 2023 edition of the Dr F.X. Aherne Prize. They received it for the innovation of a weaning ramp improving piglet vaccination.

The prize has been given out every January since 2004 at the Banff Pork Seminar in Alberta to recognise innovations in production.

This year’s award went to Robert Lafrenière and Barak Doell, employees at HyLife sow farms in La Broquerie, MB, Canada, prize for the HyLife weaning ramp. It improves the process of piglet vaccination and sorting for both piglets and workers.

As described on the BPS website, “At most sow farms, the weaning process typically involves picking up piglets, vaccinating them and separating by male and female. To accomplish this, staff will pick up piglets from the floor, bring them to the person performing the vaccination, and finally, put them on the appropriate side of the hallway depending on their sex.”

However, repeatedly collecting and picking up piglets is hard on the body, especially the back and arms, as most piglets weigh at least 5.5 kg. Staff therefore often consider the process one of the most labour-intensive and strenuous tasks they have to complete.

How it works

The weaning ramp that eliminates the need to pick up piglets off the floor:

  • Initially, piglets exit the farrowing crate by opening the sow gate while staff use noise shakers to move them into the alleyway and towards the ramp.

  • Piglets move up the ramp in groups of 20 to 25 depending on ramp size (bigger farms have larger ramps).

  • Once up the ramp, a gate using a pulley system is lowered behind the piglets and staff can begin picking the piglets from waist height to be vaccinated and then place them on a slide depending on their sex.

  • Gradual sloping slides off each side of the station bring the piglet back down slowly and gently to ground level.


HyLife implemented weaning ramps at several of its sow farms. Staff at all of these farms were postive about the ramps. Installation at all locations will eventually follow. Most of HyLife’s sow farms have different layouts and space available, so Lafrenière and Doell and their colleagues have developed assorted ramp designs depending on what works best for a specific barn.

Treena Hein Correspondent