The German Agricultural Society, Deutsche Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft (DLG), lays claim to being one of Europe’s leading membership bodies in the international food and agricultural sectors. DLG employs about 200 staff specialists and enlists the help of nearly 3,000 volunteer specialists to develop and guide technical studies of equipment and technologies for all facets of agriculture. The
organization prides itself on being politically and financially neutral.
In addition, DLG is the chief organizer and sponsor of seven international agriculture- and food-based expositions, the most recent being EuroTier 2010, staged in Hanover, Germany, Nov. 13-16, 2010.
The organization was founded by engineer and author Max Eyth in 1885. Positioned as “the cornerstone of innovation and progress,” DLG’s mandate is to promote technical and scientific progress through machinery and farm input tests, food tests, knowledge transfer and trade exhibitions.
DLG Test Center
The DLG Test Center conducts over 1,000 agricultural and farm input tests annually. The organization offers seven basic “seal of approval” certifications, including:
- DLG Signum Test: This test neutrally assesses all product features, including performance capability, reliability and safety. Successful tests are awarded the Signum seal and reports posted at www.DLG-Test.de. Over 1,500 test reports can be downloaded, a limited number in English.
- DLG-Fokus Test: This test serves to differentiate products (by specific product properties) and highlight innovations. Test quality criteria are developed for each product, such as strength, durability, performance or quality of work. Fokus Test results are also posted.
- ISOBUS-conform/ISOagri-NET-conform: Certification procedures and standardized BUS systems for farm and field operations are examined for compliance with ISO standards. The ISOBUS standard allows data transfer between tractor and mounted implement, while the ISOagriNET standard allows automatic data exchange between process computers and the farm’s personal computer for feeding and climate control, for example.
- Quality Labels: Comprehensive analyses and practice-driven testing of farm inputs (feed supplements, disinfecting agents, etc.) are ongoing.
- Safety Tests: Safety-specific inspections and tests are recognized and accepted within the scope of certified safety labels, directives and standards, such as ISO.
- Certification Tests: As a multi-accredited test agency, DLG conducts safety and operating tests that meet certification standards as prescribed by law.
- DLG PowerMix: Measuring procedures developed to determine fuel consumption rates in practical use (e.g., tractor PTO, drawbar, hydraulic load).
In addition, DLG offers confidential testing services to assist companies with the research and development of specific products and technologies.
Testing Pig Products
Three research specialists at the DLG Test Center focus specifically on testing pig and poultry production technologies. Pig specialist and test engineer, or as she describes herself, “the pig woman at DLG test center,” Iris Beckert coordinates technical tests in the laboratory and field studies conducted on cooperating commercial farms. Some of these are experimental farms, which are supported and sponsored by the German government to allow praxis-orientated research and teach and train young farmers.
Beckert works closely with the DLG Pig Committee, seven members with expertise in specific areas, including university researchers, industry representatives, a veterinarian and a pork producer. Committee membership is highly regarded and those asked to
serve consider it an honor, she explains.
Committee members decide which products to test and help establish the criteria used to evaluate a product, with consideration to the level of testing the company has requested. Product tests can be holistic — testing the complete system according to technical, handling and animal-related criteria — or targeted to specific parts or technologies featured in a product.
“We focus on the most relevant criteria. For example, we are currently testing heat plates (mats) for piglets in the farrowing crates because producers want to learn more about heat distribution on the plate and the energy consumption,” she says.
“We try to do special tests in the laboratory where we have test equipment, which is often developed by DLG engineers for a specific purpose,” Beckert explains. Laboratory tests could include accuracy of feed dispensing, water flow rates for nipple waterers and durability of equipment, for example. Due to easier standardization, the lab test generates more comparative results than field trials only.
DLG engineers also help develop test equipment for farm tests, which could evaluate ventilation, flooring, ease of cleaning or assembly, animal’s interaction with products or animal behavior, for example.
Recently, DLG has studied loose sow housing options as producers prepare to abandon individual sow stalls prior to the Jan. 1, 2013 deadline.
Companies pay a fee for the testing services, plus DLG receives some funding from the government.
Companies receive feedback from DLG during the tests, particularly if the product is not performing well. Companies are allowed to make adjustments to improve the results or they may chose to repeat the tests after modifications are made.
“Products are often improved as they are tested,” Beckert explains. “This is especially helpful to small or start-up companies that do not have the resources for research and development.”
“Sixty to 70% of the time, the testing is better at the end of the test than it was at the beginning,” explains Dirk Hesse, a member of the Pig Committee, who also heads up the farm technic department at the University of Giessen and is an independent consultant. Hesse coordinated the loose sow housing display at EuroTier 2010 (see page 8).
At the conclusion of the test, committee members review and analyze the test results and sign the report, thereby giving the product the DLG stamp of approval. From pork producers’ point of view, “if the committee says it’s good, it’s good,” Beckert says. The companies can also use the DLG seal of approval in their advertising and promotions.
The DLG staff and committee may stop a test for various reasons if a product is not performing and adjustments cannot be made. And, if products fail the test, the results are kept confidential.
“We do not release negative results,” Hesse says. “We only talk about the positive. Therefore, we tell farmers to consider products that have successfully completed the test.”
“In some regions of Germany, local authorities request tests on air purification equipment before new pig houses can be built. The target is to get better products for the farmers so they can work and produce more efficiently and animal friendly,” Beckert adds.