Dutch boost for research into organic pig farming

NETHERLANDS - The Applied Research Centre in Raalte, Holland will soon be ready to open its new pens housing 100 sows and 700 porkers. These will be reared according to organic farming principles.
calendar icon 19 June 2003
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The new business premises will give a fresh boost to applied research in the organic pig-farming sector.

The Applied Research Centre in Raalte was established in 1969 and conducts practical trials in respect of organic pig farming in the Netherlands. Raalte is the centre for applied research into sustainable and organic pig farming of the Applied Research Division for Livestock Farming, which falls under the Animal Sciences Group of Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR). In Raalte, approximately 300 sows and over 500 porkers are housed in various types of pens.

Since 1999, the centre at Raalte has kept an organic pig unit comprising 25 sows and 100 porkers. This unit is used as a model to conduct investigative research into maternity pens, nutrition and health care relating to the organic pig-farming industry. In cooperation with industry, the centre has also developed a computerised hay distribution system.

In addition to the existing pens, work began in 2002 on the construction of a new organic unit. These pens, which will house 100 sows and 720 porkers, are due to be completed by July 2003.

The layout of the new pens is based on the latest applied research findings, where the design of functional areas takes the natural behaviour of pigs into account. The pens are also equipped with state-of-the-art ventilation systems and manure disposal systems; furthermore, various heat reclamation methods are used in the pens.

One unique aspect of the centre in Raalte is the use of a floor with vertical parallel slits. This type of floor is frequently used in cattle farming and has now been tested on porkers for the first time. The slits are covered by a sliding carriage that removes hay and manure at intervals during the day. The Applied Research Centre expects that with the application of this technique, the use of hay in pens fitted with grids can be very much simplified. Furthermore, it is anticipated that this system will help to reduce the emission of ammonia gases and odours considerably.

Another innovation is the use of a Sorti-system with free-range area. The pigs, which are kept in large groups, pass through a lock that lets one animal through at a time before it can reach the feed. The system thereby allows the pigs to be weighed daily and sorted for delivery. They can also be quarantined, if necessary. The Sorti-system in Raalte is the first of its kind to be applied at a pig farm where the animals have a free-range facility at their disposal.

Source: Dutch Meat Board 19th June 2003

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