New Year resolutions: Although the start of the year is the traditional time to make resolutions there is no reason why you still cannot make them in February.
A New Year resolution is simply a decision you make to do something differently during the year. Normally these involve lifestyle changes, but again there is no reason why they cannot apply to your business. Make a resolution to do something differently this year on your pig unit. The following are five suggestions.
Improve biosecurity - think about what you can do differently on your unit to protect it from the entry and spread of disease. This could be something as simple as not allowing food containing pigmeat products, for example, sandwiches, pizzas onto the unit. It may involve a change in management, for example, rearing your own replacement gilts rather than buying in or it could even involve building isolation pens for bought in stock.
Make more use of records – think about what you can do differently in relation to record keeping. If you don’t keep records (and unfortunately there are still a few of you who don’t!) why not start keeping information about services, farrowings and weanings. This will allow you to calculate basic figures such as born alive per litter, pigs weaned per litter, litters per sow per year, conception and farrowing rates and pigs weaned per sow per year.
If you keep records but don’t analyse the figures why not buy a computerised recording programme. Not only does this make record keeping simpler, it also speeds up data analysis and provides you with more information on the performance on your herd, for example, empty day analysis, parity analysis. It can also provide accurate growth rates and food conversion ratios.
And finally, if you have a computerised programme, but only use it to record the breeding herd why not start recording the performance of the feeding herd. Not knowing the feed efficiency of your pigs from weaning to sale is a lost opportunity. Small improvements in feed efficiency have a big effect on profitability.
Improve staff facilities – think what you can do differently to show your staff you appreciate and value them. This may involve something as simple as listening to and acting on suggestions, discussing performance figures with them or encouraging them to attend a training course or trade show. It could also involve providing better working conditions. Staff are entitled to a separate clean area where they can change their clothes and take breaks. The corner of the workshop or meal store is far from ideal. Providing cooking facilities and a fridge also shows your appreciation.
Improve farm safety - pig units are no different to any other farm and accidents can and do happen. As you carry out your work think if there is a safer way of doing the job. Focus on slurry, animals, falls and equipment. You could also show your commitment to farm safety by attending a FarmSafe Awareness workshop or taking part in the online FarmSafeNet quiz. Log onto HYPERLINK “http://www.farmsafenet.org” www.farmsafenet.org to access this online farm safety tool.
Keep paperwork up to date – make a resolution to keep your paperwork up to date. Although this is probably the least appealing of all the resolutions it is still a very important one. There is a huge amount of paperwork to be completed on pig units and I know from experience it is much easier to keep it up to date than leave it for several months.
Make 2015 the year you reduce the risk of disease entering your unit, make more use of records, calculate the growth rate and feed efficiency of your pigs, provide better facilities for your staff, make your farm a safer place to work and live and keep your book work up to date.