Archive for March, 2016

This year’s theme of the London Swine Conference is “A Platform for Success”. Join us April 5-6 at the Double Tree by Hilton in London, Ontario.

April 5th – Sow Topics:

  • Parity 3 Roadblock
  • Optimizing Loose Housing
  • The Modern Sow: Top Production Issues
  • Pushing the Boundries of AI Technology
  • Managing the Health Status of the Sow
  • Practical Loose Sow Management
  • Gilt Management, Physiology and Sow Longevity
  • Solutions to Productivity Challenges

April 6th – Wean to Finish Topics:

  • Getting Ready for the Next Disease
  • Antimicrobial Resistance: Myths and Realities
  • Early Nursery Nutrition
  • Behind the Numbers of Finishing Barn Management
  • Options to Crontrol Post-Weaning Diseases
  • Liquid Feeding
  • Feeding for Carcass Value

Other Topics Include:

  • The Agriculture Manifesto – Day 1
  • Managing Generational Expectations – Day 1
  • Changing Business Structure of the North American Hog Industry – Day 2
  • Sustainable Intensification – Day 2


Register now at www.londonswineconference.ca

2016 LSC promo 1

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The  program encourages the development of our rural communities, farms, agri-food processors and agri-food organizations by adding value to existing products, creating jobs and driving economic growth.   Since the program began, there have been 475 award recipients from across the province.

Applications will be accepted until 5:00 PM on Friday, April 15, 2016.   Program guidelines and the application form can be found on the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence website.


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Originally published on ONagbusiness by Nick Betts (@SustainingAg)

Defining Sustainability

Sustainability is a holistic, long-term approach to business.  It maximizes the economic and environmental stability, equity, and health of the farm, business, and family.

A sustainable approach to farming is more than talking about environmental actions or maximizing profits.

Sustainability focusses on business processes and practices, rather than a specific food, fibre, or feed output.  It integrates economic, environmental and societal values to create a Triple Bottom Line (i.e. understanding and accounting for three “bottom lines”: economic, social, and enviornment, instead of simply looking at a cash flow analysis for actions in your operations).  This is very different from a purely profit-driven approach, where businesses benefit economically, but often at the expense of the environment and society.

Agricultural Context

Sustainable Agriculture is…

“the efficient production of safe, high quality agricultural product, in a way that protects and improves the natural environment, the social and economic conditions of the farmers, their employees and local communities, and safeguards the health and welfare of all farmed species.” (Sustainable Agricultural Initiative Platform, 2010)

Read full article at ONagbusiness New Spring = New Season. Make it More Sustainable.

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Long term, farming depends on meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The three components of social responsibility are environmental stewardship, community involvement and industry involvement. OMAFRA has resources that address each of these topics including Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture and Social Responsibility Resources.


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Survey results of rates charged in 2015 by 220 Ontario custom farmwork operators are summarized on a provincial basis and also by 6 smaller regional areas. Where available the provincial average 20…

Source: Summary of Ontario Custom Farmwork Rates charged in 2015 now available online

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The Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management estimates that barn fires cost Ontario farmers more than $25 million per year (2012-2014 average).

Do you know what to do in the event of a farm emergency? Do you know what to do if you have deadstock to manage?


Barn fires, natural disasters, equipment failures and diseases are devastating events for farmers, their families and workers, and the neighbouring community. Planning ahead to reduce risks, and preventing accidents with a safe operation will help to protect employees, family members and animals.

(Download the Farm Emergency poster)

Emergency events can cause substantial loss to a farm operation and create unique challenges for farmers, including disposing of large volumes of deadstock. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has a regulation that gives you options for deadstock management. These options help to protect water quality, reduce environmental impacts and minimize biosecurity hazards, such as scavenging.

Collection of deadstock by a licensed collector is recognized as the most effective and sustainable disposal method.

In emergency situations, you can apply to OMAFRA for an Emergency Authorization for the storage, disposal or transportation of deadstock. These authorizations can be used when emergency conditions exist that make it difficult for you to dispose of deadstock according to the regulation.

OMAFRA works with the province’s farmers, commodity groups, insurance companies, municipalities and trucking companies to ensure that deadstock is disposed of as soon as possible. In granting an exemption, OMAFRA considers the various factors of the situation, such as:

  • the urgency of the situation
  • the number of animals to be disposed
  • biosecurity risks
  • time of year
  • the condition of the deadstock
  • site conditions, including proximity to tile drains, location of surface water and wells, and depth to groundwater

Planning ahead can help alleviate some of the stress during an emergency. Our web page found at ontario.ca/farmsafety has useful resources for farm owners, including information on preventative maintenance for farm buildings and our book, “Reducing the Risk of Fire on Your Farm”. We encourage you to develop a contingency plan for emergency situations. Visit ontario.ca/deadstock for information on contingency deadstock planning and the regulation.

For help with managing deadstock in an emergency situation, you can contact an OMAFRA environmental specialist or engineer in your region, or the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca.

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Weaning is considered to be one of the most stressful times in a pig’s life due to multiple stressful changes occurring at the same time. When weaned, piglets are exposed to 3 major types of stressors; environmental (moved to a new location), social (removed from the sow and mixed with unfamiliar pen mates) and nutritional (changed from liquid to solid feed). Combined, these stressors can trigger an immune response in the animals, which contributes to the post-weaning growth lag we often observe. The post-weaning growth lag is characterized by piglets going off feed and showing no or negative weight gain for the first 24-48 hours after weaning, which results in increased disease susceptibility and mortality rates.

There are several strategies that can be employed by producers to help mitigate the post-weaning growth lag. One strategy is the use of creep feed prior to weaning. Creep feed is (usually) a highly digestible feed, offered for one to two weeks prior to weaning. Creep feeding is thought to benefit piglets by 1) introducing piglets to solid feed prior to weaning, 2) providing supplemental nutrition to piglets beyond their mother’s milk, and 3) aiding the gastrointestinal tract to adapt to nutrients not found in milk.

Recent research from the Prairie Swine Centre in Saskatoon has shown that less than 40% of piglets within a litter consume creep feed when it is offered in a standard round creep feeder. When piglets were offered creep feed for one week prior to weaning, only 35% of piglets weaned at 4 weeks of age ate creep feed, and less than 5% of piglets weaned at 3 weeks of age consumed creep feed. However, regardless of weaning age, piglets that actually consumed creep feed had improved weaning and nursery exit weights.

Identifying effective ways to encourage creep feed intake in piglets can have significant impacts on pig performance and health, as well as overall profitability. Piglets that cope with weaning stresses and do not experience the post-weaning growth lag are less susceptible to disease and have a reduced incidence of morbidity and mortality in the nursery. Strategies to increase creep intake often revolve around the form of the creep feed (i.e. pellet, mash, liquid) or on the type of feeder (i.e. round, tray) used.

Piglets raised outside seldom experience the post-weaning growth lag. They generally consume starter feed quickly, and it is believed that because these piglets have ample opportunity to explore/ingest soil and plant material (such as acorns, corn and other large items), they are familiar with the process of consuming material prior to weaning. In addition to exploring an enriched environment when outdoors, these piglets often manipulate larger feed particles than a typical creep feed. Piglets raised indoors do not get this same opportunity for novel exploration, and creep feed pellet diameter is small (3 mm or less), due to the general opinion that smaller pellets stimulate feed intake in young pigs.

Over recent years, researchers from Canada and around the world have been working to determine the effects of altering management strategies on creep feed intake, and the potential to reduce the post-weaning growth lag and improve piglet performance.

In a series of experiments conducted by the Prairie Swine Centre (on research and commercial farms), piglets were offered creep feed in either a standard round feeder or a flat tray feeder. Litters with tray feeders had a greater frequency of feeder visits compared to those with standard round feeders. When individual pigs were monitored for creep feed consumption, over 50% of the litter showed evidence of consuming creep feed in the tray feeder groups, whereas less than 40% of the litter consumed creep feed when it was offered in a standard round feeder.

In another series of experiments conducted in the Netherlands (van den Brand, 2014), piglets were offered creep feed with larger pellet size (10 or 12 mm) compared to a standard (2 mm) pellet. When litters were given the choice of the small or large pellet, researchers found that piglets preferred the larger diameter pellet (350 g/litter/d higher intake of large pellets compared to small). When litters were offered one treatment (either small or large pellet size), creep feed intake was 650 g/d higher in litters offered large pellets. Additionally, the researchers also showed that piglets given large pellets before weaning had higher body weight gain and feed intake post-weaning.

Results from these research trials indicates that altering the way creep feed is presented to piglets can impact creep feed consumption. Providing creep feed in a flat, tray style feeder encourages social exploration, and in the Prairie Swine Centre trials, increased the percentage of piglets in a litter consuming creep feed by more than 10%. Using a larger pellet size also appeared to stimulate the social aspect of creep feeding, and increased creep feed intake and activity levels in piglets. In both sets of research, piglets that were provided creep using an alternative method (tray or increased pellet size), showed no evidence of the post-weaning growth lag.

Managing the newly weaned pig can be a challenge, but evidence suggests that we can improve piglet creep feed intake prior to weaning by making changes to how we offer the feed. It is important to have a good understanding of your current creep feed intake levels before making management changes, in order to see if any new strategies improve creep intake, or hinder it. For more information on creep feeding strategies, or how to benchmark current creep intake levels on your farm, please contact:

Laura Eastwood, Ph.D
Swine Specialist, OMAFRA

Large pellet creep feed

Large pellet creep feed


Creep feed offered in tray feeders

Creep feed offered in tray feeders

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