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UNIQUE DIGITAL SOLUTIONS FOR FARMS WERE PRESENTED TO LIVESTOCK BREEDERS

This unique event was held from 18 to 20 February 2020, organised by the Ukrainian Stock Breeders Association in cooperation with the Kyiv International Contract Fair, with the support of the United States Agency for International Development USAID under the Agricultural Development Project, as well as the leading Ukrainian feed producer AVA Group within the framework of the 10th anniversary exhibition, AgroSpring 2020.

The 3-day seminar series featured 15 presentations by 14 international and Ukrainian experts in cattle breeding, pig production, IT technologies, food quality specialists, and scientists from leading agricultural educational institutions. The forum was attended by about 600 visitors — owners and employees of livestock farms.

 

The event was opened by Iryna Palamar, head of the Ukrainian Stock Breeders Association and the People’s Union NGO. She emphasised the importance of introducing digital innovations in the agricultural sector as one of the most significant developments for Ukraine’s economy and called on international investors to support Ukraine’s development as a country that offers value-added products to the market, not just a raw material base for the world.

 

 

“I would like foreign companies to build farms and businesses for value-added products here in addition to extracting raw materials from us,” Iryna Palamar emphasised.

 

 

The following issues were discussed at the 3-day AgroAnimalITForum:

  • Precision feeding of dairy cows. The future of cattle feeding and trends for 2020–2030
  • The future of cattle feeding and investments in young cattle
  • Digital model of cattle farm management;
  • Digital technologies for pig farms and artificial intelligence
  • Health of cows in transit and prevention of ketosis
  • Omega 3 fatty acids to improve fertility and viability of piglets
  • Feeding high-yield sows and a few other things.

Here is a brief overview of the experts’ talks.

 

The first day of the forum on the topic “AGRO&IT: Current Trends and Prospects” was dedicated to modern digital solutions in livestock breeding.

 

Peter van Dooren, a cattle expert from the Netherlands, and managing partner of Nutrivice Consultancy, gave a presentation on “The future of cattle feeding or trends for 2020–2030”.

Пітер ван Доорен, експерт із ВРХ із Нідерландів

The speaker talked about the importance of “‘precision feeding’ — calculating all necessary ingredients perfectly to align with what an animal needs at a certain stage of its development, which became possible through the digitization of production processes for feed procurement, laboratory research, ration calculation, and most importantly, accurate feed distribution and analysis of consumption and digestion quality. The expert also spoke about the importance of using responders, which allow for individualised management of cows, in particular, sensory detection of cow behaviour, which signals the animals’ condition and well-being. These technologies allow us to assess whether a cow is healthy and to prevent metabolic diseases, which are costly for the farmer.

 

Serhii Strelnikov, partner of BVIntelligentfarm, presented an innovative development — “artificial intelligence” for pig farms.

 

The expert presented a “computer vision” system that solves such issues as identification of each head in the herd, remote (non-invasive) weighing (allowing the weight of the animal to be determined with an accuracy of 2 kg), detection of unhealthy animals, improvement of feed conversion, and evaluation of staff performance. “Using video cameras, we can monitor each animal fully, without causing it stress and requiring human intervention. The piglet’s weight is determined by recording its measurements (volume), and the resulting growth rates are more relevant than the weight indicators during weighing, because the latter will vary throughout the day, depending on water and food intake.”

 

The speaker demonstrated the expected results of using such a computer vision system on the example of a separate fattening building for 3,000 cows, which would require 100 video cameras. According to the expert, this would have the following effect:

  • a 1% increase in safety, i.e. an additional 30 pigs for sale or $5,500;
  • a 0.1% reduction in the feed conversion rate saves $2.2 per animal sold, or $6,600;
  • reduction in the fattening period by 3 days gives an additional $1.4 per animal or $4,200;
  • the total gained by increasing efficiency per 1 finishing unit on the pig farm for each stage of fattening is $16,300;
  • annual effect x 2.3 or $37,500 per finishing unit for 3000 head.

Viktor Nechmilov, Head of Technological Department at AVAGroup, PhD in Agriculture, spoke about global digital technologies for pig farms.

 

He gave a brief overview of the latest digital inventions for pig farms from the world’s leading companies, including: sensors that protect piglets from being crushed by the sow; devices for round-the-clock monitoring of the herd and recording of their weight; equipment for carcass analysis; software for training in herd management and control, detection of abnormal behavioural patterns; sensors for monitoring microclimate, lighting, biosafety, etc.

 

“Digital technologies assist in solving a number of important tasks on a pig farm: to record the traceability of the product, which will save people’s health and producers’ money; to insure against business fraud, shadow schemes with land assets and price fluctuations. In the future, there is even the possibility of creating an agricultural cryptocurrency,” the speaker concluded.

 

The second day of the forum focused on innovations in cattle and pig feeding and was entirely devoted to presentations by international experts.

 

For example, Peter van Dooren from the Netherlands presented another topic – the importance of investing in young animals to increase economic efficiency on a dairy farm.

 

The speaker talked about the so-called “metabolic feeding programming,” noting that differences in feeding experiences during critical periods of early life, both before and after birth, can program future development, metabolism, and health.

“By ‘turning off’ or ‘turning on’ certain genes in the calf by means of appropriate feeding, you can program higher productivity for the future cow, — Peter van Dooren said. — For example, activating certain genes during critical periods of early animal development will allow for permanent changes in physiology and metabolism, which will have short- and long-term health consequences, affecting life expectancy and lifetime productivity. A big mistake of modern high-performance farms is that they do not develop their potential by investing in highly genetic semen, which would help them to increase their profit”.

 

Using the examples of specific experimental studies, the speaker proved why it is worth starting to pay attention to the feeding process for young animals from the very beginning, in the first 12 weeks of a calf’s life, and how it will pay off in the future.

 

“Feeding during the first 4–8 weeks of a calf’s life is crucial for the cow’s future milk production: it results in a higher number of developed udder cells (parenchyma DNA) and higher cell activity (more parenchyma RNA and increased “gene expression”), which cannot be “caught up” later.”

 

Marcin Kocik, an expert from Elanco Company (USA), presented a report on the prevention of ketosis in cows and suggested effective methods of prevention.

 

“Ketosis is a very costly disease on the farm, which usually gives rise to other metabolic diseases that lead to a decrease in herd profitability and productivity. Many farms suffer from latent forms of ketosis, which makes it impossible to reach a high level of utilisation of the herd’s genetic potential. This reduces the profit for the farmer. In addition, cows that do not come into heat for up to 22 days longer have lower reproductive capacity and productivity. Obviously, all of this carries a lot of additional costs — up to 250 EUR per affected cow!”

Finally, the speaker presented the world-famous product for the prevention of ketosis — Kexxtone, which helps prevent the occurrence of ketosis in the herd.

 

There were also a number of talks devoted to efficient pig breeding.

 

The Dutch pig expert Pieter-Jan Maas (SwinCo, the Netherlands) spoke about feeding high-yield sows, emphasising that inappropriate feeding reduces the duration of sow use, disease resistance, reproduction quality, the number of piglets in the nest at birth and weaning; the weight of newborns and weaned piglets is lower and affects the heterogeneity of piglets in weight and their different growth potential.

Голландський експерт зі свинарства Пітер-Ян Маас (SwinCo, Нідерланди)

The speaker provided a detailed analysis of all periods of sow farrowing, lactation and insemination, and their needs for amino acids and nutrients.

 

“In the early farrowing period, it is important to use feeding to restore sows’ condition by visually assessing their fatness, measuring their weight and fat thickness,” remarked Peter-Jan Maas, in summary. — “During the middle farrowing period, it is important not to overfeed sows, and in late farrowing it is important to increase the level of feeding to stimulate the development of fetuses and mammary glands. Using a separate type of feed or a separate feed additive is also recommended.

 

During lactation, the daily feed intake must be monitored: After farrowing, it should be between 2.5 and 3 or 4 kg, and should increase by 0.5 to 1.5 kg/day over the next few days.”

Steven Hennessey, (Agritech) explained the importance of using omega-3 fatty acids to improve the reproductive capacity of sows and the viability of piglets.

 

The expert noted that sows in the wild eat a more varied diet and get omega-3 fatty acids from grass roots and insects. In contrast, there is an insufficient amount of omega-3 fatty acids in pig farm feed, which affects the reproductive capacity of sows and the viability and immunity of piglets.

 

“Omega-3 fatty acids are transmitted to the piglets during farrowing and also through milk” Steven Hennessy points out. — “Providing omega-3 fatty acids for sows changes the profile of their prostaglandin secretion, which reduces early embryo death, as well as decreasing piglet mortality in the delivery room caused by crushing by the sow. In the boars, omega-3 fatty acids improve sperm quality: they produce a higher concentration of sperm and higher number of sperm doses. This results in an additional 1 piglet from a sow per weaning, which has been confirmed by experiments on Ukrainian farms.”

 

Volodymyr Shylo, pig expert (SwinCo, the Netherlands), highlighted the issue of “Multi-phase piglet feeding” — a strategy aimed at providing piglets with nutrients in accordance with their physiological development and at maximising productivity, taking account of modern breeding technology.

 

Володимир Шило, експерт зі свинарства (SwinCo, Нідерланди)

“The intensification of pig breeding that we are seeing now has another side to it,” Volodymyr Shylo says. — “For example, an increase in sow fertility causes certain difficulties in raising piglets: a greater or lower variation in their birth weight, a shorter weaning period and lower piglet weights at weaning, a shorter period of adjustment to eating dry feed and preparation for weaning. This all has a direct impact on further fattening results. That is why we have developed 3 phases in the feeding of piglets, depending on their physiological development”.

 

 

The expert noted the following features for each of these phases:

  • Phase 1 — Learning to consume (roughly for days 0–14, in practice, until piglets start actively consuming feed).

 

“This is central and crucial to the speed of adjustment to a different type of feed. Its purpose is to “convince” piglets that they can consume something else besides the sow’s milk. The earlier the piglets start consuming feed, the more feed they will consume before weaning”.

  • Phase 2 — Learning to digest (from the 15th day before weaning to the 5th (10th) day after weaning) — in practice, from the time piglets start actively consuming feed. “Weaning is a critical period in the life of piglets. It is important to stimulate feed intake before weaning to train the enzyme system and support the immune system. The results of feed intake immediately after weaning have a direct impact on performance during rearing.”
  • Phase 3 — Learning how to grow (post-weaning period).

“The effective rearing phase begins after successful weaning, and it requires high-quality balanced feed: amino acids and energy. As you can see, it is impossible to have optimally balanced feed for the entire 0–45 day period. The feeding objectives for different periods — both before weaning and after weaning — will change. Multi-phase feeding will solve a whole range of issues: preventing health problems in piglets, allowing them to reach their genetic potential, and providing the most cost-effective solution for piglet breeding.”

 

The third day of the forum was dedicated to Technology and Personnel, with a number of scientists from leading agricultural and educational institutions delivering their presentations.

 

Anna Vasylivna Lykhach, Doctor of Agricultural Sciences, made a presentation on “Piglet Welfare during rearing”, in which she shared an interesting study: the impact on productivity indicators of toy use by piglets.

 

Лихач Анна Василівна, доктор сільськогосподарських наук виступила із презентацією «Добробут поросят на дорощуванні»

The researchers conducted an experiment on one particular farm, where a group of piglets were given rubber toys to meet their needs for mobility and play.

The study showed that the use of toys helped to reduce the number of fights among piglets by almost ten times, and thereby decreased their injuries, ear gnawing, etc.; it improved the emotional condition of the animals, and also encouraged them to rest more, which resulted in a 10.12% increase in profitability.


Mykola Povod, an expert in the field of pig breeding, Doctor of Agricultural Sciences and Professor at Sumy National Agrarian University, raised an important topic — the training of professional staff in the agricultural sector — in his report “Dual Education: A Practical Platform for Future Specialists”.

 

Using the example of cooperation between a number of Ukrainian educational institutions and the Globino pig farm, the speaker talked about the effectiveness of permanent on-the-job training for students as part of dual education.


“The agricultural sector is developing at an incredible pace”, — the specialist noted. — “Theoretical training for specialists in an educational institution lags far behind the real state of affairs in business, so each company is forced to train its own staff in a production mode. In addition, agricultural companies are in second place in terms of digitization of all processes (after IT companies), and not all educational institutions have the necessary specialist computer equipment, so with dual education, students have access to all these resources.

This also affects business, as there is no inflow of qualified personnel.”

 

The algorithm of cooperation between the university and enterprise involves a number of aspects, such as monitoring and adjustment of curricula; internships for teachers in the company, on-the-job training, participation by company representatives in open lectures, etc.

“Every two weeks we invite representatives of various Ukrainian and international companies to give lectures and presentations. The suppliers of biological preparations, feed and equipment, and the genetic consultants share the most up-to-date information on what is happening currently, not on “how it should be” but on “how it is” and what really achieves great results! All the students have additional training at the company’s office the day before they leave for the farm. And at the end of the next stage of the internship (practice), the students take a test to see if they have the residual knowledge acquired on-site.”

 

This dual education brings impressive results! After the program was introduced, 33% of the students remained employed at the production facility. Other statistics include the following:

  • Out of 512 students who completed the internship, 129 people were hired for working positions
  • Currently, 55 of them are permanently employed,
  • including the position of:

– a pig farm manager with 20 thousand animals — 1 person

– a deputy pig farm manager with 150 thousand animals — 2 people

– middle-tier specialists — 6 people (3 animal husbandry experts, 1 veterinarian, 2 mechanical engineers in the pig breeding complex)

– accountants and operators of the feeding unit — 9 people

– veterinary animal treatment operators, operators of pig farms, mechanical engineers, repairmen and electricians — 38 people.


Other topics covered during the 3-day forum included: presentation of dairy herd management software (Serhii Ryzhkov, Profeedtechnology); use of inoculants to improve silage quality (Ivan Eisner, Christian Hansen); trends in energy feeding for high-yield dairy herds (Neil Birkett, VolacWilmarFeedIngredients); importance of using certified products in livestock rearing and HACCP standards (Oleksandr Smyrnov, Head of Certification, MNCgroup).

WHAT WERE THE IMPRESSIONS OF THE FORUM PARTICIPANTS?

“We made sure that we hit the target with the topics of the seminars”, — commented Olga Makhno, pig nutritionist at AVA Group, which became a partner for the event and presented a number of its speakers within the forum, and the Ukrainian Stock Breeders Association. — “Through regular communication with our customers, we are seeing that they strive to develop and improve their knowledge and technology on their farms. Each speaker’s presentation provoked lively discussions, and there were a lot of questions!”.

 

 

“This is a unique event that has never been held before within the framework of the exhibition,” said Nina Rudenko, one of the forum visitors and Deputy Director for Animal Breeding at Chernihiv Industrial Dairy Company. “First of all, I would like to note the high level of expertise of the speakers. These are really experienced professionals. We have already cooperated with some of them through our partnership with the Ukrainian Stock Breeders Association and AVA Group, and we have been able to see the truly effective professional solutions they offer: this includes an approach to producing high-quality feed and improving feed efficiency. We’re already using digital technologies, in particular, we’ve fully automated the process of collecting information about each cow and its productivity, which minimises the paperwork. Now, through these seminars, we’ve learned a lot more. We’re going to use that!”

 

 

“All the presentations were highly professional,” says Serhii Galimov, Director of the farm at Agricultural Company Tekhmet-Yug in the Mykolaiv region. — “I’d particularly like to highlight the experts’ presentations on the importance of using omega-3 fatty acids in piglet feeding, which help to get an additional piglet for weaning. It’s always interesting to learn about solutions that allow you to  bring in more money.”

 

Media partners for the event: Kormy i Fakty (Feed and Facts) and Landlord magazines, Meat-Inform, the main meat information portal of Ukraine

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