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Staff Training and Education

(77) Farms that have been highly successful for long periods of time invariably have a good management structure and rapport between pig people and pigs. In other words people management in all aspects is probably the most crucial part of successful pig farming. If there is a problem of production or disease, it usually arises from bad management decisions, their implications, or its complete failure.

In order to achieve good management on the farm it is necessary to understand and satisfy the fundamental needs of the people at work. These needs, in a sequential order, can be listed as follows:

To satisfy basic biological needs
These in essence are the provision of an acceptable standard of living both at work and at home through an adequate wage and the availability of affordable medical services.

To be in a secure position
Satisfaction of the biological needs leads to the second requirement, that of security in the position of good employment. People at this level are constantly seeking reassurance about their job, are very conservative, do not take risks and motivation can be very poor. It is in this group that education and training can have the greatest impact and allow development into the next levels of needs.

To belong to the business
Through education, training and friendships teamwork develops, where people ask questions and at the same time listen and are developing and becoming motivated in their job. At this point the managers or people in control play an important part by providing good relationships with the workers. From friendship and sense of belonging comes achievement. A sense of achievement on the pig farm involves recognition by senior management and in the process builds self esteem. Furthermore it starts the process of motivation.

Motivation is created on the pig farm by the feed back of information and the employee being recognised for his contributions. When people are given the responsibility for a job not only does that give them recognition but enables them to develop their own initiatives and thereby move into more challenging roles. From this a highly motivated team work develops, with staff helping to solve problems.

To become confident
Through the development of a sense of achievement people will then develop confidence in their jobs and direct and help others. This is the point at which efficiency across the farm improves considerably.

To develop new skills
The final and ultimate part of the process is where the confidence reaches a level such that through further education and application, new skills can take place. A typical example of this is when the farrowing house manager is promoted to under manager or the under manager is promoted to full manager. This must be the ultimate goal of the education process throughout the farm, though of course the pathways upwards will be limited by the capabilities of each individual and the size of the farm.

The objectives of training and education

These essentially can be grouped into five areas:

  1. Education per se.
  2. To provide a better understanding of the job.
  3. To provide a better working relationship both with pig people and managers.
  4. To provide a better environment for the pig and improve its welfare.
  5. Finally to increase efficiency of not only production and health but also the economic viability of the farm.

What is important to the employees in their work?

A number of surveys have been carried out in different occupations and the results in order of preference generally are very much the same. These include:

  • An interesting job.
  • Appreciation for the work that is done.
  • Being involved in the job - This is important because it does provide people with considerable motivation particularly if owners and managers are prepared to listen and take note.
  • A good salary or wage for the job which in it self provides a considerable amount of the basic security need.
  • Confidence and trust - this further promotes motivation and in particular self esteem.
  • Incentives - these range from increased rewards financially, through bonus schemes to the sense of personnel achievement and gratification from the boss.
  • A good environment in which to work.
  • Good office facilities.
All the above are provided by education.

If as an employer or manager you provide education then it is quite pertinent to ask the question "How do I benefit"? Such benefits would include:

  • More consistent standards of work.
  • You have more confidence in the staff.
  • The system of pig farming becomes more efficient.
  • The system is much better maintained.
  • There are fewer disasters or mistakes.
  • There is a great deal more staff motivation and therefore work practices become more efficient.
  • The staff become aware of their responsibilities when working with people and they are much more flexible.
  • There is a much lower staff turn over.
The same question must then be asked "How does the employee benefit from education"?:
  • There is more involvement in the job.
  • There is better understanding of objectives and goals and greater achievement.
  • There is a great deal more job satisfaction and more motivation.
  • Confidence in abilities develops.
  • There is a status of being skilled.
  • Skills can be documented and thereby recognised.
  • The prospects of achievement become apparent and through this, enhancement of the job position.
  • There are less accidents at work.
Are you a successful employer or a manager?
This is a very important question to ask yourself. It can be answered by the difficulties you have in obtaining employees or the time which they remain in your employment. It is interesting to look at the characteristics of the good manager. Check yourself against this list and pick out the areas which you consider are weaknesses then develop them into strengths.

Characteristics of a good owner/manager

  • Manages people well with skill and understanding.
  • Has as much interest in people as in the work.
  • Demonstrates technical competence.
  • Has good business and financial skills.
  • Is able to motivate people and provide education.
  • Is a good communicator and aware of peoples needs.
  • Has good organisational competence.
  • Is a clear decision maker having listened to the various relevant thoughts from people.
  • Provides a good work experience.
  • Gives employees an opportunity to contribute to the debate.
  • Always gives a perception of responsibility.
  • Provides a challenge and encouragement.
  • Rewards people through personal achievement, recognition, authority, status and pay.
  • Provides a constant and enthusiastic environment within which the employees can work.
  • Makes every effort to ensure that the employees are involved in all planning and decision making and in particular has the quality to go and ask questions and listen.
  • Involves people in their job. This is one of the highest priorities in most employees.
  • Always creates an atmosphere of constant good relationships where employees are not frightened to communicate their ideas or indeed their feelings about their job.
  • Provides a clear avenue for the expressions of frustrations and any on going problems.
  • Expects and receives excellent performance from the staff and conveys a belief that they are capable of carrying this out.
  • Should say "thank you - well done", often.
  • It is interesting to note that the successful managers are those that have a sense of personal fulfilment. This also creates an excellent environment for employees.
Finally there is a strong relationship between motivation and the belief that improved performance will lead to financial rewards. However, the methods by which the reward is determined needs careful thought and clarification. If you develop a bonus system always assess it first on a wide range of theoretical scenarios before you commit yourself to it.

How should you improve education on the farm?

There are four or five clearly identified areas of job specification where programmes of education need to be developed. These areas can be categorised as follows:

  1. The Trainee Stockperson
  2. The Stockperson
  3. The Training Manager or Under Manager
  4. The Manager
  5. The Owner

At a farm level, training can be provide by both the manager and or owner, the veterinarian and other people introduced to the farm for that purpose. The manager should play a pivotal role in this by his constant daily instruction, the assessment of various techniques, by staff meetings and by using his records.

At a stockperson level each farm should have a simple manual of the different daily tasks so that when instructions and training have been given and competency assessed they can then be documented.

This type of training programme would be considered as basic and be undertaken over a one to two year period. It would be suitable for the new recruit or school-leaver.

The veterinarian would have a part to play in the basic training through promoting understanding and the development of short seminars on the farm as part of his visit contribution.

Topics that should be considered in the basic training programme

Basic training

  • Technical pig production terms and their understanding.
  • Aspects of safety on the pig farm.
  • Management of:
      - Boars - Dry sows
  • Farrowing houses.
  • Weaner production.
  • Feeder pig production.
  • The hospital pen.
  • Understanding reproduction.
  • It is written for that purpose.
  • Artificial insemination techniques.
  • Pregnancy testing.
  • Recording and the use of records.
  • Understanding genetics and breeding.
  • Recognising the healthy and diseased pig.
  • The disposal of dead stock.
  • The role of disinfectants in disease.
  • The management of medicines on the farm.
  • The administration of medicines on the farm.
  • Nutrition and the application of feed.
  • Slurry disposal.
  • The use of pressure washers, electricity.
  • Managing the gilt.
  • Welding and maintenance.
  • Understanding simple pig production economics.

Within each of these topics there will be further individual areas of education. For example in the farrowing house a list should be made of all the various tasks that are carried out including:

  • Preparing the house for occupancy.
  • Recording farrowing details.
  • Preparing the sow for farrowing.
  • The signs of farrowing.
  • How to assist at farrowing.
  • Removing teeth and tails.
  • Injecting with iron.
  • Managing the litter.
  • Recognising disease.
  • Recognising piglet diseases.
  • Assessing the healthy and diseased udder.
  • Castration, tattooing.
  • Feeding the sow.
  • Controlling the environment.
  • Moving the sow
  • Catching the litter in preparation for tasks.
Each of these would provide a short course of instruction followed by "doing", followed by assessment.

Intermediate training
This area of training is aimed at the experienced stockperson or the person responsible for a section of the farm or a trainee manager. It should involve attending day courses that included personnel management and more advanced training of the basic topics. Veterinary seminars on the understanding of diseases should be an important part of this. This can be carried out either on the farm at the veterinary visit, if there are sufficient people to justify this, or alternatively by the development of seminars at the veterinary practice or at the agriculture schools. The following topics should form part of the veterinary training programme:

  • Understanding infectious agents.
  • Anatomy of the pig.
  • The use and misuse of medicines.
  • How diseases are spread.
  • The healthy and the diseased pig.
  • The collection, understanding and use of records.
  • The relevance of disease control to profitable pig farming.
  • Understanding reproduction in the male.
  • Understanding reproduction in the female.
  • Non- infectious infertility.
  • Infectious infertility.
  • The process of farrowing.
  • Approaching farm problems.
  • Aspects of vaccination.
  • Welfare of the pig.
  • Notifiable diseases.
  • Respiratory diseases.
  • Problems of the dry sow.
  • Nutrition, production and disease.
  • Controlling parasites.
  • Skin diseases.
Advanced training
This should be aimed at the under manger, the manager and the group farm manager. Instruction courses here would involve attending specific educational seminars. At a veterinary level these would include the topics already mentioned for intermediates but they would now be dealt with in a more detailed and scientific way and include a greater understanding, particularly of the epidemiology and the control of disease. Instruction techniques and the ability to teach people should be a major part of this training programme together with people management, business management and communication skills. Training in the areas of business management and the use of computers form a essential part of modern day pig production. The greatest complaint of people working on pig farms is style of management and lack of appreciation. The education of the manager in this respect is important.

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