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DanBred International Delivers on Thailand Pig farm

18 September 2015

Thailand has quite a mature pig scenario with around 1 million sows. Whilst the industry is dominated by the two big integrators, CP Foods and Betagro, there are of course plenty of other pig businesses operating in the country with many of these farms importing seedstock from Europe.

One of the criticisms levelled at European breeders is that their pigs are unable to perform well in the high temperatures and humidity experienced in Asian countries such as Thailand.

There are always exceptions to the rule and a 2000 sow unit owned by Dr Sermsak Jiebna situated 2 hour’s drive from Bangkok is doing precisely that, producing 30.6 pigs / sow / year. 

Dr Jiebna’s unit was set up 23 years ago. Prior to this Dr Jiebna was the Danbred agent for Thailand, but then he saw the potential of setting up a pig farm with such prolific and productive breeding stock. 

The unit’s excellent output is being achieved just in simple open sided buildings, with fan assisted ventilation. “My farm is a copy of what is best in Denmark, except our stock has to perform in temperatures of 35oC” commented Dr Jiebna.

Biosecurity is very important in Denmark and is increasingly important in Thailand and in fact The Pig Site’s reporter had to be resident in Thailand for 72 hours before being allowed on to the pig unit.

GGP gilts- Yorkshire and Landrace – are selected personally by Dr Jiebna and imported direct from Denmark 2 – 3 times per year.

Gilts are served on the third heat and inseminated at 12 hour intervals. The purebred females are then crossed to eventually produce F1 York/Landrace females.

Breeding GPs and F1s in Thailand enables the females to adapt to the hot conditions as opposed to just importing F1 females from a cold climate to a very hot one.

Duroc boars are also imported for the unit’s AI stud, with semen being used to produce a 50% Duroc 25% York 25% Landrace slaughter pig.

The Thai unit differs from Danish ones in many ways, one major difference being in the labour force.

“I manage a labour force of 60 people,” commented Chaloemchai Pribung (pictured), who has been Dr Jiebna’s manager for 12 years.” 

Most of my staff are from Cambodia and Myamar and who live in hostel accommodation on the farm. The farm also has 10 animal scientists on the payroll, who work in a supervisory capacity.

All staff shower in and out of the unit. Specific sets of boots are positioned just outside each building and these must be put on before entry is allowed into each pig house.

The unit just has one massive farrowing house, 240m long x 14.5m wide, containing 240 crates.

Some sows and gilts farrow in traditional farrowing pens with wire mesh floors, whilst others are kept in Danish type farrowing crates with a solid lying area under the sow. The rest of the pen is floored with plastic slats. It’s thought however that the plastic slats might harbour E.Coli and the new farrowing pens have metal tribar type slatting.

Sows are not induced although oxytocin is used from time to time and old hessian sacks are put down behind the sow so that piglets are given some comfort plus this solid material stops draughts.

The farrowing houses used to be staffed around the clock but now just a single 8 hour shift is the norm. 

Key Performance Indicators

-Numbers born alive/ litter 14.1

-pre-weaning losses 6.8%

-numbers weaned/ litter 13.2

-Average weaning weight 6.6kg

-pigs/ sow & gilt / year 30.6

Piglets receive cow colostrum, which is imported from France, 4 times per day, by syringe, for the first 2 days of life. The unit had a problem with piglet starvation through lack of milk but this has been cured by providing water in the creep area along with supplemental milk, given in a trough.

A special creep feed is given to piglets from 3 days of age. This creep feed is manufactured on–site and contains 7% of a specially processed Danish fishmeal, sourced from the TripleNine company.

This process imparts a specific smell to the creep which encourages intake.

Castration takes place at 4 days of age. Having said that, Improvac is licenced for use in Thailand but not an option preferred by Dr Jiebna.

The attention to detail on the unit is very impressive. Sows producing low birth weight litters are highlighted with a blue card over the pen, whilst scouring litters get a yellow flag. Pre-weaning losses at 6.8% are very good, given the numbers born alive (14.1).

Elaborate fostering, common in Denmark, is not the case here, although some bigger piglets may get weaned at 15 days of age. The bulk of the piglets are weaned at 24 days. 

Because of the high ambient temperatures sows will only eat 7-8kg/day vs 10kg in Denmark.

Water is mixed with the feed and sows are fed 3 times a day, to encourage feed intake.

At weaning sows & gilts are moved to the service area, which is deliberately kept cool.

Females are ad lib fed after weaning and are inseminated twice at 24 hour intervals, using foam tipped catheters.

Because the Danbred females rear such big litters, feeding is very important. For the first 3- 4 weeks after service 2-2.2kg is fed per day. After that, feed is reduced to 2kg/head/day, relative to body condition.

Finally, after 12 weeks the feed is increased to 3-4 kg per day, given in 2 feeds.

A great deal of emphasis is placed on condition scoring of pregnant females, with pictures being displayed outside the gestation shed.

Another key management task is pregnancy checking, with sows and gilts being scanned at 4, 6 and 9 weeks post service. 

Disease is a big problem in Thailand as elsewhere in the world and so a substantial vaccination programme is in place on the unit, with breeding animals being vaccinated against Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), Classical swine Fever (CSF) and Parvo.

Weaner diets used to contain 1000ppm of zinc oxide to prevent digestive upsets but this practice was discontinued earlier this year. Instead diets contain pro- and phytobiotics, sourced from Denmark. 

It is legal to feed plasma in Thailand but Dr Jiebna excludes it from his feeds. He is also making a conscious effort to reduce the amounts of antibiotics used, mirroring what has happened in Europe.

Piglets are not moved straight away at weaning but remain in the farrowing pens for a few days to get used to the loss of their mother.

Weaner and finisher pigs are fed by means of ad lib hoppers , all filled by hand. 

Pigs get bored on Thai units, as is the case anywhere else. Banana trees grow in abundance on the unit and pieces of banana plant stem provide a cheap and readily available toy as straw is not found on Thai units and the G/F pigs are reared on barren solid concrete floors. 

These floors are kept clean by being frequently swilled down with water. Finishing pigs reach a slaughter weight of 105-110kg at 23 weeks of age and the pigs are paid for whilst still on the farm.

Dr Jiebna and his team are to be congratulated on his unit’s performance, given the conditions under which the pigs have to perform and many European producers must be envious of his high level of productivity.

Thai Danbred - Dr Chalermsri Channam (Technical adviser) & Dr Sermsak Jiebna

September 2015

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