Ghost gate wins hog award

BANFF, Alta. — Devising a simple solution to a hog barn problem led to an award for Lyle and Maaike Campbell, hog producers at Birnam Pork in Arkona, Ont.

Their invention was one of two that won the F.X. Aherne Prize presented Jan. 11 at the Banff Pork Seminar.

In 2016, the Campbells renovated their quarantine barn, going from four pens that held about 25 gilts to a loose housing concept. To maintain their breeding program, they used 18 breeding crates within the quarantine barn, but found the gilts were able to leave the crates and then lose their artificial insemination rods while in group housing.

The solution was a simple gate, which they dubbed a ghost gate that fits behind the gilt in the crate, keeping it in place for breeding.

The small steel gates are 20 inches wide and 20 inches high and lock in place at the desired spot on the crate.

“They’re super light so when you’re not using them, you can put the gates on top of the crates and store them there until you need them again. It’s a really simple concept but its been a godsend,” Maaike said in an interview.

“It takes less than an hour to put together. Anyone that has a little bit of welding capabilities could make one.”

The gates cost less than $50 each to build because the Campbells used leftover steel already on hand.

She said they have no plans to commercialize the concept and would readily share it with anyone interested in the design.

Getting an award for a simple concept was a surprise, Maaike added.

“It’s such a simple innovation, obviously you don’t expect that you’re going to win something. For us it works awesome, but you don’t always know if somebody else would get the same benefits out of it.”

The other recipient of the Aherne Prize was Scott Hyshka of Mountain Vista/Sunterra Farms at Drumheller, Alta. He developed a pen within a pen that can protect animals from aggression when in loose housing.

The invention is a collapsible crate that can be placed in the group housing pen. It is then opened to enclose a sow that needs segregation to avoid aggression or one that requires extra feed. The sow remains in contact with penmates and can easily re-enter the group later.

The crate folds up so it can be moved out of the way when it isn’t needed.

The Aherne Prize recognizes individuals who have developed either original solutions to pork production challenges or creative uses of known technology.

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