Carlos Gracia is the managing director of the Payon Farming Developing Company a family company focused on the production of pigs with more than 40 years of professional experience. Although its productive capacity is certainly non-negligible (more than 5.000 sows and 20.000 fattening places), they abandoned the free market and got integrated in the Vallcompanys Group.
Thanks to this change, they took advantage of the consultancy services given by the Spanish giant in order to adapt to the new pig welfare regulation the best way possible. And since they were very happy with their commercial relationship with Exafan, they relied on their services in order to develop the reference reform.
The main change imposed by the new regulation refers to the requirement of accommodating the gestation sows in-group from the 28t h gestation day until the actual farrowing day. This fact implies some complications in many senses. One of them is the great concern about the higher incidence of abortions due to the struggle caused when setting up the hierarchies within the group. However, experience shows that this problem loses some relevance when the sows have already lived together for a time.
However, what´s really an economic problem is the greater need for space. The highest room requirements per animal set up by the regulation means that with the built surface, 30% of fewer animals should be accommodated there. This way, in order to adapt to the regulation and keep up with the same productive capacity, it is required to enlarge the facilities with a wider covered surface. Therefore, it was necessary to build new buildings in order to have more room available and so keep the census.
Designing a farm according to a management system is relatively easy, as all of it is built in steel. However, adapting an old building to a new management system is more complex. We already built some facilities in the past where we had to redefine their function, at the same time; we had to plan the arrangement of the lots in such a way that we took full advantage of them so as not to face any bottleneck problem. In this case, the situation required some good planning, since it was compulsory to reconvert four independent and differently sized cores. This way, we were supposed to build facilities for 414 places plus: 6 parks of 36, 3 parks of 34 and 3 parks of 32.
In the reform, on top of adapting the space available and management format to the new regulation, we also took advantage of the situation and improved the animal climate control, more specifically regarding the farrowers. These facilities meant a tremendous challenge because we had to face two antagonist environmental requirements together: by one side, the sows required a sufficiently fresh environment so that their appetite was not hindered and could eat enough to guarantee a good lactation, on the other hand, piglets required an environment sufficiently warm to grow healthy at the time they were lactating under the sow.
In this specific case, we also considered the different technologies developed. Regarding the sows, we introduced some forced ventilation systems in combination with some cooling panels, in order to guarantee enough cooling in summer. In relationship with the piglets, we made some hot water heating pads available, heated by a biomass boiler, so that they were kept away from the sow when not lactating. The same way and in order to get a better result, we used some infrared brooders during the farrowing period of time. Therefore, we could dry and heat the piglets quickly from the very first time.
Although we experienced some abortion problems because of the adaptation to the parks, these are being reduced now that the sows are getting used to the new system. They are very satisfied with the reform results, especially regarding how comfortable was to get some advice from experts and delegate the project execution to an expert company in turnkey projects, and in charge of the whole complex, the construction of the building and the feeding system.