Pig performance is affected by many factors: building design, ventilation, genetics, disease levels and a host of other variables. One of the most important factors – and most difficult to define – is that of human intervention.
The idea of measuring the impact of human intervention is new in the animal health world, though it’s been used for decades by businesses to support continuous improvement. About a year ago, Pfizer Animal Health initiated its Husbandry Educator™ (HE) program1 to provide on-farm training for caregivers and measure the impact of human intervention. Two field trials with well-designed protocols showed significant statistical differences in the impact of human intervention:
- Feeder pigs raised under the influence of a HE were 1.7 lbs. heavier at the end of the nursery phase than those raised with standard care (i.e. without HE influence).2
- Pigs raised under the influence of a HE showed a medication/veterinary cost savings of $.54 per pig compared to those raised under standard care.2
- For every 43 pigs raised under the influence of the HE, one additional high-value nursery pig was produced compared to standard care.
Most importantly, the metrics built around the human interventions showed a positive return on investment for incorporating production practices recommended by HEs in farm situations.2
“Production practices have become more sophisticated, but post-weaning is still one of the most stressful times in a pig’s life,” says Marty Frankhouser, marketing manager for Pork Services and Solutions, Pfizer Animal Health. “It’s especially important to do everything possible to ensure good husbandry practices during this critical timeframe.”
Implementing the Farm’s Own SOPs
The HE program is designed to benefit the overall operation, the caregivers in that operation and the pigs through improved performance, while implementing the farm’s own standard operating procedures on a daily basis. “The intent of the program is not to change protocols, but to achieve a higher level of compliance through effective execution of existing production protocols,” points out Frankhouser. “That means the engagement of all stakeholders is important, including caregivers, veterinarians and managers.”
Essentially, the HEs work to:
- Assess compliance with farm health protocols
- Provide one-on-one caregiver coaching directed at early identification and management of suboptimal pigs
- Improve the knowledge and skills of caregivers by teaching them how to use quantitative assessments