A clever invention has saved an Essex pig farmer thousands of pounds, and much hassle, and enabled him to continue to produce pigs under the Red Tractor Farm Assurance scheme.
Chris Leamon runs a 320-sow herd on the family farm near Harlow. All the pigs are taken through to finishing at an average of 76kg deadweight and are liquid-fed using a variety of co-products. Slats are virtually a pre-requisite with wet feeding but wear and tear and the corrosive effects of some ingredients caused damage to the slats, enlarging the gaps.
An EU ruling on slatted floors which came into effect at the beginning of the year required a maximum gap of 18mm with a tolerance of +/- 3mm for finishers.
The farm has 1,500 finishing places and it was found that in some cases up to 90 percent of the slats were affected. The obvious, if expensive, the solution would have been simply to replace the concrete slats, but the big problem was that the finishing houses were built on top of them.
Chris, who has an HND qualification in agricultural engineering looked at many ways of solving this problem. These included putting solid plastic boards over the slats – “slippery and dirty” – covering the entire floor with a fresh layer of concrete and making new gaps – costly and impractical – or putting new plastic slats on top of the concrete ones. These would have been difficult to keep clean, resulting in hygiene problems. He even tried mending them with a resin mixture, but getting it to adhere to the slats was a problem.
He approached Suffolk equipment manufacturer, Quality Equipment, and asked for ideas to solve the problem. Their design department came up with an ingenious solution – stainless steel slat inserts that are held in place by expanding plastic wedges.
Chris found it a relatively simple job to fit them – the only tools needed were an electric screwdriver and a rubber hammer and a gauge to check the gap. He installed the first inserts last September and has been pleased with the results after they have been used by two batches of pigs. Defra vets have inspected these houses and have passed them.
He installed the inserts and has been pleased with the results after they have been used by two batches of pigs. Defra vets have inspected these houses and have passed them.
Chris has been one of six farmers taking part in the trial use of these slat inserts, organized by BPEX who made the following comments: “BPEX has conducted an evaluation of both the slat slot reducers and slat slot closure devices on a number of farms and made welfare assessments on the pigs within the pens with them installed and parallel untreated (control) pens housing grower and finisher pigs over a number of months. This work has confirmed that, when correctly installed, the inserts provide an effective means for the floors to comply with current welfare regulations and the Defra Code of Practice for the Welfare of Pigs. BPEX is continuing its monitoring over a longer term”.
With tightening welfare regulations slat gap has become something of an EU-wide problem and Quality Equipment has started exporting quantities of the inserts to mainland Europe
Quality Equipment has always prided itself on being a down-to-earth company. This was certainly the case for seven members of staff who got their hands – and everything else – dirty while taking part in the Only The Brave mud obstacle run. The event took place at Elveden Estates, near Thetford on Sunday 2nd April.
The aim was to raise £500 for the company’s favoured charity, the East Anglian Air Ambulance service. Pledges at over £1,000 have more than doubled this sum. A team of seven took part, plus two non-QE staff, with some tackling the five-mile and others braving the ten-mile course with over 40 obstacles!
Due to increased demand for Paneltim by pig farmers, Quality Equipment has extended its storage area by 220m² (2368 sq ft) at its Woolpit, Suffolk, base.
This will enable the company to stock an extra 5,000m² (53,819 sq ft) of the plastic panel, widely used in piggeries, particularly for pen division and gates. It offers substantial benefits in terms of strength and hygiene over many traditional materials.