For more than 50 years A M Warkup Ltd has been supplying buildings to the Pig Industry. The perception generally is that we build package deal buildings only. Nothing could be further from the truth. We undertake major refurbishment projects on behalf of clients who for various reasons choose not to go the new building route. These reasons are many and varied but to be successful have to be based on sound reasoning and make financial sense. It is also a fact that the shell of a building can outlast the equipment inside it and replacement or remodelling can be justified two or even more times during its life. This allows new developments in equipment or husbandry methods to be incorporated at a percentage of new build costs. If this cost is below 65% to 70% of new build then it is worth considering.
Above this level requires a compelling reason for the refurbishment route to be taken such as difficulties with planning for a new build. These can be removed with the remodelling and/ or change of use of an existing building. The complex issue of tax allowances on repairs and new equipment is another issue but not for here.
Years of sitting in farm offices or kitchens being told that investment is crazy in an industry which has such precarious margins still sounds wrong. The fact that few of those who believed it are no longer around is of no comfort, whilst those who continued to invest, knowing that to stand still is fatal, generally are. We can do very little to influence what we are offered for our product but the world still requires food in increasing quantities. Our ability to drive costs out of our production methods and to wring the last drop of performance from any improvements implemented will ultimately establish our position in this growing market.
Unfortunately we are becoming an ever shrinking presence in this growing world. This is very frustrating as our best facilities are world class. Many an overseas visitor has seen what a great place the UK is to keep pigs in but it remains that there are just too few of them. The current going is tough and again businesses are failing whilst the best survive, and continue to invest in their futures, again.
So having accepted that to stand still is not an option where do you spend your money? All improvements yield benefits but which are best value?
Re-insulation of building shells is probably the most difficult to do effectively. It is no use spraying foam onto roofs and upper walls if you cannot maintain improvement in performance because you can’t wash or disinfect the building. Financially the extra food eaten in a poorly insulated building by a pig trying to keep warm can be significant. Measurements show that poor insulation can seem to the pig as though it is 7*C colder than when housed in a well insulated building. A finisher would use just under 0.3 of a kilo of food to compensate for the cold, every day, every pig. Hard faced retro-fitted insulation panels are easily washed, vermin proof and enable the pig to use its food for growth. Smooth surfaces also help with cleaning, disinfecting and air distribution with the effective sealing of the building shell making any powered ventilation more effective. Good insulation is as effective at keeping heat out as in. During summer excessive heat can suppress a pig’s appetite, and although FCR is not affected significantly, slower growth means fatter pigs and longer times to market.
A new or replacement ventilation system can be worthwhile but expensive. Our experience is that controlled environments grow pigs more efficiently and the more controlled the greater the potential for growth. Some years ago ACNV, so brilliantly developed and codified by Jim Bruce and others, using wall flaps and later curtains, seemed to be the way to go. Indeed in certain parts of the country it is enjoying a revival while the new build trend elsewhere has moved on and for good reason. On separate occasions and on two separate farms for a period of up to a year we were able to compare ACNV and fan ventilated buildings. In one instance, stock, feed, pen layout and all but the ventilation were identical. The SKOV fan ventilated system consistently finished the pigs eight days quicker. In a 500 place finisher this equates to more than 50 tonnes of feed saved per year plus less labour and other costs. These savings generally equate to payback periods of less than three years.
The choice of new or replacement feeders is usually of far more importance than its share of overall project cost. No feeder is waste free but rates of wastage vary. The thriftiest are about 4% and the most wasteful can be more than 10%. These extremes equate to a difference of more than 10 kg of feed per finisher. In addition 4% still equates to 7 kg per finisher so it is also worth considering catch mats or solid areas round the feeders. Our recommendation is a Crystal Springs wet/dry feeder, made of stainless steel and with very low feed wastage. It is equally effective at feeding meal or pellets. Whichever feeder you favour, ease of adjusting and regularly doing so is vital.
In the UK an increasing number of pigs are finished in third party grow out finisher buildings. Usually the breeder places pigs in these facilities and provides not only the pigs but the food consumed by them. It is significant that after new build these breeders are our best customers for the Crystal Springs feeders; putting their money where their feed is, so to speak. The supply of good quality, environmentally controlled facilities for third party growing and finishing is outstripped by demand. The higher rents paid for these types of buildings reflect, both the shortage of, and the better performance from the pigs housed in them. Many a ‘retired’ building is enjoying a new lease of life following basic refurbishment, and ever more elaborate remodelling schemes are being considered, designed and built.
April edition of Pig World
The options for where to spend your money can be confusing. Advice, based on our previous experience, is freely available. The improvements already discussed are headline items with significant financial implications, but there are many others to consider. The workability of older buildings often declines with age. Doors, pen divisions, floor slats, plumbing systems and many others are all wearable items and need maintenance and eventual replacement. When attended to not only do they impact on the pig’s wellbeing but contribute to ease of management. There is nothing more encouraging than a facility that just works.
Over the years we have amassed thousands of specialist items used to construct a wide range of agricultural livestock buildings. This means that we are able to supply any of these items separately and in any quantity, large or small, with targeted advice as to suitability. Whether a complete building kit, farrowing crate, pen division or push fit elbow, you only pay for the goods. The advice is free.