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"New EU regulations are the time to switch to feeding stations "

Jean-Marcel Urvoy (FR)

Brittany in north-western France has long been famous for its agricultural riches. It is home to more than 7,000 pig farmers, many of them on family farms like the Ferme de Keraziou. This brand-new piggery can be seen from miles away. The complex is located in Tressignaux, just 15 kilometres from the coast " a hamlet so small that even the sat nav has trouble finding it.  

 

Thorough preparation

Jean-Marcel Urvoy is one of Keraziou 's three owners. He set up the farm last year together with two other pig farmers. Up to that point they had been working separately, in the same region, but their old farms had to be modified to meet European standards.  

 

"That was an excellent opportunity to make a fresh start and to join forces, "
Urvoy says in the coffee room on his farm. "All three of us came from a different system where we kept our pigs in pens. We had never really thought about dynamic groups. "

To prepare for their project, Urvoy and his partners and their four workers visited a good number of other pig farms, including some that had a lot of experience with the Nedap Electronic Sow Feeding system. "As a result, we actually knew very early on that we wanted to switch to the dynamic system. "

Benefits for people and animals

The working conditions for the staff, the comfort for the animals and the savings to be made on feed, water and electricity were the most important criteria for the Ferme de Keraziou: "We are delighted with our decision. " Nedap Electronic Sow Feeding has also made the farm 's team more efficient. "Automating our feeding has given us more time for other parts of our farm. " The flexibility of the feeding stations was also an important investment consideration for the agricultural entrepreneur: "What is great about the Nedap system is that it evolves. When a new option comes along, or if we want to expand, it 's not a problem. We can calibrate it precisely to our needs. "

Keraziou is not yet fully operational: there is still a lot of hammering and painting going on in a couple of places on the farm. "We have based our farm on a production target of 16,500 fatteners. We won 't reach it this year yet because we 've only been going for nine months. But partly thanks to Nedap Electronic Sow Feeding, we are right on track. So the switch went very well for us. "

Peace and quiet

Anyone taking a peek in the biggest house will immediately notice one thing: the peace and quiet reigning among the 100-plus pigs walking freely about the house. Some snuffle inquisitively around your legs; others go a bit further and even try to gnaw your shoes. "You just have to keep moving, " Urvoy laughs, whilst giving us a guided tour. This intensive contact with the animals was perhaps the greatest transition they had to make when they set up the new farm, the Breton farmer says. "The breeder has to adapt to the pigs " not the other way round, of course, because that will soon get you into trouble. So you need to look at the group properly. Which animal is the dominant one? Which animal might have health problems? These were things we didn 't tend to notice before as we were too busy feeding. Now that we have switched to Nedap feeding stations, we have much more time to observe. So we can identify animals in need of extra attention much earlier " if they are sick, for example. "

Jean-Marcel Urvoy: "Automating our feeding has given us more time for other parts of our farm. "
First time

"The first time they go into the feeding station is the most critical moment. You need to take your time and not rush things, " Urvoy explains. Pigs have excellent memories, so if something goes wrong the first time they will refuse next time. "You need to guide them calmly. They need to learn that there is a treat waiting for them between the fences. We let them into the feeding station twice a day for the first two days. For a group of 90 sows, this can take anything up to three hours at a time. After the third day we let them do their own thing. Up to now, we haven 't had a single pig that hasn 't wanted to go in. "

For the time being, Urvoy and his two partners are still guiding the sows themselves as they haven 't yet entrusted this delicate task to their workers. So control is tight and costs are also kept under control. "With Nedap Electronic Sow Feeding we have been able to make savings on a number of items such as feed and water. So we are keeping our cost price within budget without having to compromise on quality at all. "

The peace that reigns in the group also makes it much easier to move the sows.  

Economy and animal welfare  

"For reasons of economy, we also decided to put the whole production chain under one roof " from birth to leaving for the abattoir. It 's the most effective way, " pig farmer Jean-Marcel Urvoy says.

Logically, the economic continuity of the farm is his top priority. Yet Urvoy never loses sight of animal welfare. Compared with his previous farm, his animals are much more relaxed and are not frightened. There are more than 100 sows in the biggest house, which gets a lot of daylight. "If we need to take them from one part to the other, it happens in a very orderly manner. We can move 250 to 300 pigs in less than three hours. "

Individual feeding with Nedap Electronic Sow Feeding not only helps them optimise management of the pigs, but it also benefits animal welfare. "They are not forced; they can come and go as they like, " says Urvoy. The house is also designed to suit the animals ' behaviour. Pigs like to lie against something or against other pigs. "So we provided as many partitions and walls as possible. Virtually every pig can find a place to lean against. "

Ventilation

Ventilation was also optimised in the new build. It never gets really cold in the houses in winter; they are at a constant temperature of about 20 ºC. "These really are the best conditions for the animals, " Urvoy says proudly.
Urvoy 's customers are butchers; at present he is not doing any business directly with food processors. "But we could well be doing that in the future. If we do, the way in which we keep our pigs and the welfare of our animals could convince people to do business with us. "

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