The company has had a trial group of swine go through the facility, said Ernie Hansen, manager of swine nutrition and technical services with Hubbard.
It is now in the process of bringing in animals for the first research trial.
“Animal agriculture is an evolving process, there is new technology starting with genetics, nutrition, buildings and environment, and our customers are continuously incorporating those technologies and things change,” he told FeedNavigator. “Some of what we do really, it’s not overly exciting, it’s pretty basic research to answer the fundamental question of how do we feed, manage and market these pigs every day?”
“That’s what drives us,” he added.
Work on the standalone, 2,500-head capacity research barn started about two years ago, he said. The site, located near Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, comes in addition to an earlier, smaller swine research facility.
In addition to the new facility dedicated to swine research, the company also has other R&D sites focused on dairy cattle and beef cows, said Hansen.
The new, larger swine site is intended to allow for ongoing research efforts that resemble a commercial production situation and for faster turnaround on information.
“Fifteen years ago, it was state of the art and commercial [size], and now we’d look at that scale as an exploratory and pilot research [site],” he said.
Early research and facility details
The barn includes an updated air filtration system and feeding equipment, said Hansen.
The filtration system is designed to prevent the spread of disease as the facility is in a swine dense region.
“The basics of animal husbandry have never changed,” he said. “A pig needs feed water, air and care every day, but how we provide that is what’s changing – in regards to the environment it’s all about the best way to keep clean, fresh air in front of the pigs at the right temperature without being drafty or stale.”
The barn also has a Big Dutchman DryExact feeding system to aid in the research work being done, he said.
“We need to be able to weigh the amount of feed that goes into the feeder every day,” he said. “With one pig or ten pigs you can have bags of feed and you can get that done – when you have 2500 pigs you’ve got to go to automation,” he added.
The feeding system measures, delivers and records the amount of feed sent to every feeder, he said. “Getting a measured amount of feed into a feeder every day is what it does, but it takes some advanced engineering to automate that process,” he added.
The first wean to finish feeding study that will be conducted at the facility is set to run for about six months and document and verify the use of Alltech’s Blueprint nutrition program, said Hansen. The nutrition program provides a combination of company technologies aimed at improving animal growth, health and meat quality.
“Typically the research that we do, the subsequent research builds upon the prior research,” he said of planning for future projects. “Any good research trial asks as many new questions as it answers the questions you’re trying to get documentation on.”
The pigs used in the feeding trial facility are owned by Schwartz Farms, Inc. and day-to-day management is done by the Lax-Pietig family, he said.