Janssen Varkens is the newest partner to join Trouw Nutrition's global network of validation farms. With 500 sows and 4,200 fattening pigs, the closed swine farm is located in Castenray, near the Trouw Nutrition Swine Research Facility outside Boxmeer, the Netherlands.
Through the partnership, Janssen Varkens can collect and provide individual pig data on body weight, growth, health, vaccination program, antibiotic use and carcass traits from birth until slaughter and from insemination until the end of lactation. In this manner, the full production cycle is captured, and an online data connection is established from feed to fork.
"Validation farms provide an opportunity to evaluate innovations beyond Trouw Nutrition's internal research environment," says Coen Smits, research and development director at Trouw Nutrition. "Farm studies under commercial research conditions aim to assess the efficacy and practical application of dietary and management solutions in real-world conditions."
The project with Janssen was initiated by the global research and development department of Trouw Nutrition, while the selection of a validation farm was made by Trouw Nutrition's operating company in Benelux, Scandinavia and France. Selection criteria are carefully specified for validation research, as these farms must be representative of the market and must be led by a motivated farmer who sees value in research conducted on the farm.
Commenting on the collaboration, Tom Janssen, owner of Janssen Farm, says, "I see potential in the validation project and the collaboration with Trouw Nutrition, as I like to learn more about innovations in animal nutrition. The trials are set up in a way that is easy to execute, and reliable, individual pig results are obtained that are relevant for research as well as management."
Studies on local farms also contribute to customer confidence in the efficacy of solutions for their farm. "Every pig farm operates with unique conditions relative to genetics, feed, water, etc. By carrying out studies in local market conditions, validation farms build customer trust that our solutions will perform in their production environment," says Christian van de Kamp, sales manager for on-farm products at Trouw Nutrition.
Data drives on-farm decisions
The validation farm is renovated to execute scientific research and relies on state-of-the-art digital equipment and technologies, allowing researchers to follow every stage of a study.
Feed activators are installed in each pen in the farm's farrowing room, permitting the sow to self-select when she wants to receive a portion of the feed. Feed is automatically dispensed whenever she moves her snout up and presses a small button. The feeding system gives the option to randomize two different dietary treatments across the barn, allowing researchers to precisely monitor feed intake of different dietary treatments, as well as feed intake patterns of sows in the farrowing pens. Additionally, researchers can monitor the piglets' body weight and growth over the lactation period. The weighing scales for sows and piglets are equipped with a Bluetooth connection and a link to the data platform, where researchers can log on remotely and follow their studies.
Top-dress dosing equipment installed at the feeding station offers adding and mixing capabilities in the gestating barn. This functionality allows different feed additives to be added to the diet. These additives can support the specific nutritional requirements of sows based on the stage of gestation – for example, nutritional technologies that contribute to the growth of mammary tissue during late gestation. A weighing bridge can automatically weigh sows every time they leave the feeding station, allowing researchers to track body weight development in real-time.
In the weaning barn as well as the grow-finish barns, computer-controlled feeding systems and water lines deliver accurate reporting on intake and provide the option to randomize different feed - and/or water-treatments throughout the farm. Sensors in the feed bins automatically re-fill feed as needed, and the amount is precisely weighed before going into the feed line.
"These renovations allow us to have reliable, accurate and direct on-farm results that are directly connected to the cloud, where researchers can follow their studies on-demand from their home office" says Smits.
Trouw Nutrition is a global leader in feed, farm and health, and Nutreco's livestock feed business line. The firm has a 90-year history of developing innovative feed products and more sustainable ways of raising healthy farm animals and companion animals and has a presence in 105 countries, with 22 manufacturing plants.