John Hanrahan runs a large scale, farrow-to-finish unit in Granagh, Co. Limerick. Three generations of the family – including his brother and his wife – are all involved in the business, as well as their neighbouring dairy herd.
The last four years has seen some big changes. Following an outbreak of ‘flu’, they adopted an ‘all-in, all-out’ system, alongside an improved cleaning regime.
At the same time, the farm started using the IDAL needle-free vaccination gun to help avoid the possible risk of transferring disease from animal to animal. As a result, John saw an improvement in productivity and – over time – the farm became antibiotic free.
“It didn’t happen automatically; it took two years to get to that level,” John explained.
The farm is run along a high-tech, low-labour principle and that has helped to reduce costs and improve outcomes.
The family recently installed their own mill on-site; run on only an hour’s manual labour per day, it can be operated remotely from the computer or iPhone.
John explained: “The cost of feed, at the moment, is extremely high and we have a great chance to buy forward into the futures market.
The mill gives us total control over our feed costs.
Technology linked to the sows’ HDX (electronic identification) tags allows further monitoring. As the animals pass through the feed stations, data about each animal is read, recorded and sent back to John in the office for analysis.
The vaccination programme
John’s proactive approach means he now runs a strict regime of looking after the pigs through a vaccination programme, in co-ordination with his vet.
He explained: “The price of pigs of good health, we reckon, is somewhere around 6-10c/kg.
We vaccinate the piglets for PCV at 21-23 days of age. We find that very helpful, as it covers the pigs for up to 26 weeks.
The farm recently began using the new IDAL 3G gun, which is lighter and more user-friendly than the previous version.
“It’s a machine that will work extremely fast; we can do about 380-400 pigs per hour with it. The guys in the farrowing room, that are vaccinating the piglets, are extremely happy with the IDAL gun and they find it very safe.
“It’s a really good example of how high tech, low labour can work on a family farm,” John concluded.