Biotech specialist plumps for Plumpton

UK - Research and education have been given a boost by Kiotechagil. The company has chosen Plumpton College as the location for initial trials of a new feed additive. Jane Jordan, ThePigSite Editor finds out more.
calendar icon 17 October 2007
clock icon 5 minute read

The trials, using a brand new, yet to be launched natural additive are being carried out at Plumpton's 135-sow breeding and finishing herd in East Sussex.

The modern facility is part of the college's 600-hectare farm, a working enterprise that is also a valuable teaching asset.

The college sells pigs to local outlets, including many high street butchers, and is very conscious of consumer concerns including food miles, safety and traceability. So Kiotechagil's natural approach to performance enhancers - the company manufactures high-performance natural feed additives and products for the feed and grain industries - fits Plumpton's ethos.

The unit also attracts 10,000 visitors a year from the farming community and the general public and it's a good opportunity to show them what farmers are doing to meet their demands, improve productivity and protect welfare and the environment.

Trails at Plumpton College are helping with the commercial development of Kiotechagil's natural feed additives

The Kiotechagil trials will evaluate improvements to the feed conversion ratio, growth rate and general health and well-being of grower pigs fed the 'new' additive. The product has been included in their diet and will be given to the pigs from 25 to 50kgs liveweight. The trials will run for eight weeks and involve five pens of pigs (100 animals). Three pens are being given the new product, the other two pens are the control.

Looking for improvememt
"We are always looking for ways to improve performance without using medication. We have more than 10,000 visitors each year and we want to show them what pig farmers are doing to support the pigs well-being as well as improving performance. It's a positive public message and good for our industry," explains Dan Leggett, Pig Unit Manager at Plumpton College.

All of Plumpton's finishing pigs are reared in straw-based accommodation and kept in stable family groups. They are only mixed at weaning and then remain together as a static group until they leave the farm for slaughter at 75kgs liveweight.

This minimal stress environment has many advantages for trail work, as there are few if any changes across the entire finishing period, says Dan.

"We are delighted that Kiotechagil has chosen our herd for these trials. We have a strong tradition in pig husbandry, offer a wide range of courses and also undertake a number of trials of significant commercial importance," he explained.

Educational bonus

Both college staff and students are making good use of this project. It offers a good opportunity to use the key skills learned in the classroom and relate them to a real situation. Dan says the weekly weighing and monitoring of pig health and performance has massive educational benefits, particularly to students with learning needs. The physical nature of the project really helps them understand and advance.

Also, having access to new technology is also a bonus as students are able to see how industry is progressing and how that benefits livestock production.

"We are a land-based college and our students come from all manner of courses. Having this kind of project enables them to get first hand experience of new production methods and also to handle and work with the animals - it is very valuable," says Dan.

Ian Cockshott, Kiotechagil Technical Sales Manager says that the Plumpton trials are very significant trials. "Having facilities like those at Plumpton College is vitally important for us to develop, assess and launch new pioneering products. These investigations will enable us to assess the improvement in animal health and also the value of this product to farmers in terms of overall cost savings," he explained.

Medication is not the only means of improving pig performance, health and well-being

Using natural additives - like acidifiers, prebiotics and probiotics - can offer production benefits, although to date, many on-farm studies have proved circumspect. Ian says that although these investigations are at a very early stage, the prospects promising.

"We are looking at the potential that these compounds may have to help improve growth rate and FCR. The product being tested at Plumpton is with growing pigs, although Kiotechagil hopes that this additive will have applications across the breeding an finishing herd, he added.

Salmonella control is another key area where Kiotechagil feels it can help the pig industry. And Ian says he is working with a number of producers with respect to ZAP compliance. He says this is a key issue for the industry and believes that better control of this infection on-farm could offer performance benefits to many units.

The Plumpton trial will run until the end of December, and results should be available in the New Year.

Click here to find out more about Plumpton College.

Click here for information on Kiotechagil.

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