At the end of every year, we always look back to the farms we highlighted over the year. In times of Covid-19, the year 2020 has been slightly different than it would have been normally. Our farm visits took place in Europe most of the time.
Trade shows were cancelled. Intercontinental visits were cancelled. Planned trips to far-away swine facilities had to be erased from the agenda. Just like for most of my colleagues, Covid-19 crossed out anything we had planned. Instead, we were all confined to our homes. Most content for publication in Pig Progress has been made with a cat sleeping on my lap.
Publishing farm visits therefore has been a bit of a challenge. I had to improvise quite a bit more than I would usually do. That is why there are more farms from Western Europe than I would normally include in Pig Progress. I am listing them again in chronological order – the numbers are not a ranking. But obviously you can choose which one you like best. Here we go.
Vanackere farm is located in Ardooie, close to Roeselare, the heart of Belgium’s pig industry. Owner Bart Vanackere has a farrow-to-finish farm with a capacity for 550 sows. Only a few years back he added a new finisher pig house for 1,350 pigs with a wide range of novelties, including much space for large groups, advanced manure separation and treatment of vegetable waste.
Møllevang is a 2-site Danish nucleus herd with 1,250 sows and a multiplication site with another 1,250 sows. For a long time, the nucleus farm was a part of the Danish cooperative structure, protecting the Danish genetics base. Over the years, Niels Pedersen, owner of Møllevang, came to realise he preferred to no longer be part of that. In recent years, he went his own way and teamed up with PIC, which has worked to Pedersen’s satisfaction.
Farrow-to-finish farm Jansberg in the south of the Netherlands is a good example of swine farming with a modern outlook. The farm, with 400 sows and a 3,800 finisher pig capacity, appears permanently in transition, is applying modern technology and looking ahead, and is open to novel ways of making money. Examples of recent changes include the construction of a new gestating sow area, and the aim is to use as few antibiotics as possible.
Battling power cuts and poor national pork consumption rates are just 2 of the challenges South African pig farmer CP Kriek faces each week on his 2,200 sow farrow-to-finish farm, which is located in Fochville, at the border of Gauteng and North West provinces. However, maximising efficiency by investing in new technology and modernising ageing pig housing is helping Kriek control his costs in the constant fight for profit.
An article that has drawn the attention of many around the globe already was the one about this farm visit to Ten Have farm in Beerta in the north of the Netherlands. Often critical voices say that better welfare comes at the expense of profitability, and consumers will always choose cheap pork over premium pork. Owner Annechien ten Have-Mellema of this 600 sow farrow-to finish-facility did not want to sit around and wait and embarked on a journey to prove them wrong.
About 40% of the UK’s sows are kept in outdoor facilities. That type of high-welfare pig production does not have the easiest of times with uncertain factors like Brexit and Covid-19, as correspondent Chris McCullough found out. How do the award-winning producing brothers Ian and Michael Baker at North Farm Livestock manage? They are running a 4,700 sow operation at 4 sites with outdoor finishing at up to 25 locations in the area.
About 5 years ago, the Flemish Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO) in Belgium started up its own pig farm. Would the farm have been built in 2020, different choices would have been made. The current construction is a logical result of experience as well as questions from the field, correspondent Rene Stevens learnt during his visit at the facility with 105 sows and 640 finishers.
Danish swine producer Søren Kjær Poulsen has a strong focus on multiplication of Landrace pigs. With his experienced staff and a new protein strategy, he achieves top performance as well as high levels of animal health. German journalist Michael Werning of trade journal SUS travelled north and also discovered what the 850 sow facility does to overcome the next challenge to produce without the usage of antibiotics and zinc oxide.
This innovative little gem can be found right behind Bekkers finisher farm in Venhorst. The initiative ‘Het Familievarken’ (The Family Pig) is a novel concept including a modular barn with many welfare aspects. Supported by Wageningen University and various stakeholders from the industry, in total 48 sows nurse without crates and in groups on sand. The barn has a special feature: pig toilets.