SPACE, held in Rennes, Brittany, is one of the few trade shows that continues on an annual basis. Whilst the bulk of the visitors are French, the organisers are promoting it as an international event, and targeting French speaking African countries.

Entering the showground, visitors were confronted by police in full riot gear. In fact, the French Minister of Agriculture, who always visits SPACE, cancelled his usual walkabout and gave his press conference in one of the administration buildings.

Discontent  

Moving through the pig equipment halls, many booths were displaying posters highlighting the alleged dumping of German pigmeat on the French market. In addition, many exhibitors were wearing black arm bands, visually highlighting the parlous state of the Breton pig industry - a barometer for the country as a whole as half of the French herd is in Brittany.

Elsewhere, dairy famers were protesting about low milk prices. In fact militant dairy farmers trashed three big stands, including that of the Ministry of Agriculture, and several groups of farmers had run–ins with riot police in various parts of the showground.

Change  

Currently, one third of pig producers are in profit, one third are breaking even and one third are losing money. As in many countries, the herd size is increasing in France.

The traditional husband and wife family farm is now under threat, especially where there is little arable land. As the unit size increases, farmers lose their independence and end up as employees, or leave the industry. Despite the large number of co-ops in France, one complaint is that not enough of the profits made elsewhere in the chain are returned to producers. Rising feed prices are not helping things either.

Also looming on the horizon is the spectre of 2013, and the EU partial dry sow stall ban. Seemingly, only 20% of French producers have so far converted to group housing and, undoubtedly, many older farmers will just simply retire and stop producing pigs.

What’s new?  

There was a slight increase this year in the number of companies displaying loose housing equipment. Several had ESF systems on show, although, on balance, there were more free access stall systems to be seen.

One company was exhibiting a trickle feed system. Wet feeding -“soupe” - is very popular in France and this method of feeding has been incorporated into group penning systems. The trough runs the full length of the pen, while short stub walls act as dividers to keep sows separate. With such systems of course, batching sows by size is vital, in order to stop bullying.

As usual there were several new products on display at the show this year, although many of the international companies were saving their new inventions for November’s EuroTier exhibition in Hannover.

With an eye on the move to group housing of sows and gilts, and the likelihood of lost tags, Rv–Biotech was showing its pneumatically operated sow tattooer, which can take 6 characters, 10mm in size. The company recommends carrying out the task on maiden gilts, whilst on heat, although stressing gilts at that specific time cannot be beneficial for good conception rates.

Quite a few companies are selling trolleys/mobile work stations containing equipment for various stock tasks. Schippers sells a sturdy one, and various pieces of kit can be attached to it, such as the company’s MS Tag-matic. The Tag-matic automatically applies an ear tag to a baby pig.

Strings of the male and female parts of the tag are fed into the machine, with a sensor activating the tagger when the piglet’s ear is fed between two plates. The Tag – matic works on 220volts, has an integrated compressor and can tag 400 pigs per hour.

Schippers also sells an electric tail cauteriser which, like the tagger fits onto the work station. Schippers was also demonstrating its Pulse needle free injector which can be used to deliver antibiotics (0.1ml-0.5ml), iron (0.5ml-2ml). For bigger pigs dose rates of 2.5ml-5.0ml can be given.

Geosane was also exhibiting a needle free system, in its case the Acushot injector. The Acushot injector, which weighs just over 3kg.uses a lithium battery powered compressor. Dosages range from 0.2ml to 2.5ml, in increments of 0.1ml. For baby pig injections this injector can be mounted statically on a farrowing pen division whereas for bigger pigs a backpack and handheld gun are used for the job.

Whether some of this high technology equipment would currently be cost effective for a Breton 100 sow husband and wife unit is questionable, however, in time, costs will come down.