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Global trends in the pig industry: biosecurity, labor, efficiency

8 February 2021, at 12:30am

A current trend in the pork industry is the newfound globalization of biosecurity. With ASF running rampant in Asia and parts of Eastern Europe, there’s a high concern with ASF among many.

Fritz Richards talks with The Pig Site's Sarah Mikesell at the 2020 Iowa Pork Congress in Des Moines, Iowa, USA.

“Everybody's clamping down on biosecurity,” said Fritz Richards, national sales director for Hog Slat. “A large part of biosecurity is informed designs, so we're seeing clients building larger farms and larger buildings so they can control people coming in and out. There’s also been changes in methods of transportation, truck washes, truck drivers and also visitors. We’re really limiting visitors coming into farms and even internal employees, monitoring how they're tracking from farm-to-farm.”

Regardless of location, biosecurity has become an important issue for many farmers. Some have looked at more efficient ways to control movement from building to building, such as creating bigger buildings and tearing down walkways going from barn to barn. Techniques such as these can also help prevent rodents from entering.

“Beyond biosecurity, another big issue is that labor is a huge issue with farmers,” says Fritz Richards. “Around the world, it's very difficult to hire labor into farms, so the owners are trying to design and build the farms to be more efficient for labor. We're seeing a lot more automation and changes to delivery systems and lactation houses. We offer SowMax Feeders and traditionally, lactation has been hand-fed, which is very labor intensive. We see a large investment by producers to put chain delivery systems in the lactation barn.”

With new changes to equipment design, the pig industry has galvanized many more products, leading to better success than has traditionally been seen in Europe. Customers have seen the larger capital investment upfront being more profitable long-term. The initial cost is higher, but it's lower over time because the equipment lasts longer.

“From the labor standpoint, you don't have to do as much repair and maintenance to higher quality equipment,” said Richards. “This type of long-term efficiency effort is important because staying in the business has gotten more and more competitive. With margins narrowing, it’s best to look at all options to lower cost and raise productivity.”

A good example of a low maintenance ventilation system is Hog Slat’s new Infinity Fans. They don't have belts, so there’s no concern of maintenance on the belt, and they're more energy efficient. This allows producers to cut back costs on energy consumption and labor costs, offering a sustainable solution that runs longer with less labor.

“We have engineers on every product group for our equipment - from our slats to our ventilation, our fans, inlets and our feed systems,” said Richards. “We're different than any other company in the world - we have our own production. We have 35,000 sows currently in production, and we've been in the hog business many years. So we know firsthand what works and what doesn't work. What breaks at one year, what breaks at 10 years and what breaks it 20 years. It gives us a different insight than anybody else.”

Hog Slat produces a wide variety of farm products, including manufactured slats, TriDek flooring, ventilation, fans, inlets, cool cells, feeding systems and much more.

“Most people will come and visit us and they're totally surprised by our level of expertise on our R&D, and our quality control sets us apart further from others,” said Fritz Richards. "We've got a very intensive quality control program. We're a global company, and we have manufacturing plants around the world, and our quality control program encompasses all of our plants and all of our suppliers so we can maintain a very high level of quality.”