The Spanish Optimal Pork Production Group, OPP, developed one of the most technologically advanced pig farm in terms of production, efficiency and profitability.

The innovative P Plus Farm is the brainchild of Joan Sanmartin, the group’s manager director, who said she believes European animal welfare regulations have opened up an opportunity to demonstrate that these requirements are not incompatible with a pig farm’s profitability.

 

Next-generation pig farms

The P Plus Farm shows that the most advanced installations and technologies as well as new computer software can improve a pig farm’s productivity and profitability while simultaneously taking care of animal welfare. And the company claims it has reached this target with a multi-disciplinary team of 22 experts, who include vets, agronomists and expert programmers.

The new P Plus Farm complies with EU animal welfare regulations, integrates efficient technologies to control feeding, climatic parameters, computerized interconnection and uses resources to generate clean energies to reach the highest work and health standards.

“This is a new generation of farms: technological, eco-friendly and a respecter of animal welfare,” says, Ricardo Segundo, international manager at OPP. When asked why OPP was investing so much time, effort and money into the project, he explained: “We had the best control of the feeding in the whole unit. The following step, it was to develop new software that synchronizes the whole information.”

As far as the costs were concerned, Ricardo says: “If compared against other systems adapted to animal welfare, the difference in cost is marginal (between 5 percent and 15 percent more) to produce healthier and more uniform pigs.”

 

A model pig unit

The first Granja P Plus pig unit built by OPP is at Albesa Ramadera, in Lleida, Spain. With a current population of 3,300 sows, the farm is also used as a training center and model farm to show how it meets animal welfare regulations and uses the latest technology.

Out of a range of possibilities, OPP partnered with three pig equipment companies. Schauer supplied the electronic and wet feed feeding stations (for farrowing and weaning, respectively), Skov was tapped for ventilation requirements and Mik provided heated floor panels for farrowing.

“The main parameter for improving the profitability and efficiency of a pig farm lies in controlling the sow feed from gestation to farrowing,” says an OPP spokesperson. “The aim is for the sow to be fed more efficiently before farrowing to obtain piglets with higher birth weights to favor the conversion factors in the fattening stage, the biggest cost impact in the ratio between feed intake and daily weight gain.”

“To control feeding once pregnancy is confirmed, the Schauer electronic stations calibrate the rations for the pregnant sows on a daily basis, controlling their feeding rigorously according to the pre-established feeding curves,” says an OPP spokesperson. “Depending on the body conditions of each pig, the quantities of feed are individualized and can be reprogrammed instantly, by the stockmen, using PDAs. OPP also developed a project called “Inmunopig” to demonstrate the importance of birth weight.”

Farm’s Mother software  
All this feeding precision and control would make no sense without a computer program that allows all the data generated on the pig farm to be interrelated and compared to make it more efficient and detect possible deviations.

The basic element of the OPP Group project is its computer program—Farm’s Mother, a platform that integrates, handles and analyzes data. It is not just another management program, but a processing synchronizing and analyzing data tool that is compatible with the habitual management programs used by farmers.

After transferring production data to the Farm’s Mother program, it computes all the variables and after analyzing them shows the real situation on a pig farm. It processes the data of the group gestation, the feeding in maternity pens, environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, etc.), health treatment, birth and weaning weights, dorsal fat or water consumption.

Gathering all this data from the pig farm provides information of incalculable value that can be interrelated and analyzed to enable more efficient and effective decisions to be taken for the farm.  The program synchronizes all that data once a day (a process that takes around 20 minutes) and after analyzing it, the Farm’s Mother indicates the sows that are less productive, for example. This includes not only those in numerical productivity but also those that have a poor feed conversion. As a result, farm management is based on more objective criteria for decision making and the response time is shorter, as the problems are detected earlier—a farmer will know what is going on in real-time, because the data is always up to date.

Not all pig farmers are open to new technologies; OPP has given priority to three parameters to achieve successful implantation. In first place, it must be automatic and simple to use; secondly, that it controls all the variables involved in pig production; and finally to provide the farmer with training and support for the system. 

Eco-friendly pig farm

Another characteristic feature of the Granja P Plus pig unit is that it is eco-friendly because of the savings from efficient technologies and the use of alternative energies. The Skov ventilation systems are believed to save 75 percent of energy consumption and the Mik heating panels can reduce heat consumption by 25 percent.

In the specific case of the first Granja P Plus pig unit, all this will be combined with the installation of solar panels on the farm roof during the summer in 2012. These are expected to produce 713,040 kWh per year and will avoid the emission of around 273,094 kg of CO2 per year. The farm has been designed to use more natural light instead of artificial lighting. Efficient insulation of the walls and roof also contributes to making it more efficient and profitable.

A campaign to internationalize OPP Group, S.L. and the Granja Plus P project is now underway. Brazil is now the most immediate project, with a Granja Plus P being developed there as a training center with the participation of the past president of the Brazilian Association of Pig Producers, Rubens Valentini (Miunça farm). After Brazil, OPP hopes to begin new projects in Mexico, Italy, Venezuela or Argentina.

The innovative Albesa Ramadera farm in Spain has already received more than 450 visits from interested pig industry leaders from Italy, Portugal, France, Russia, Argentina, Ukraine, United States, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Chile and Mexico. “The path is open; it only remains for us to back this new generation that has led, in Spain, to students on the Master of Pig Production at the University of Lleida waiting impatiently for their turn to work on the Granja P Plus at Albesa Ramadera,” says Ricardo.