Award recognizes work to improve care of piglets

This year’s F.X. Aherene prizes were presented to the inventors of an easier way to handle piglets and a better heating system

BANFF, Alta. — The inventors of a device to allow easier handling of piglets and the developers of a system that provides more even heat to young piglets received awards for their efforts Jan. 9 at the Banff Pork Seminar.

Tess Faulkner and Gillian Grieves of South West Ontario Veterinary Services invented the Hammock, a method of immobilizing piglets and lighter weight pigs so they can be more easily treated or euthanized.

They were awarded the F.X. Aherne prize for innovative pork production, which is presented annually.

The Hammock is a frame lined with mesh of the type used in wind fencing. The piglet is placed in the hammock with its legs through the holes in the mesh. Piglet struggle is reduced and the animals can then be handled more easily, Faulkner said.

The Hammock is foldable so it can be easily stored when not needed.

The second recipients of the prize were Amos Peterson and Chris Hanson of FarrPro, who developed the Haven, a device that provides more even heat and a better thermal environment for young piglets in nursery barns.

Peterson said traditional heat lamps provide a range of heat that is too hot in the middle and too cool at the edges. That results in piglets fighting for the optimum spot, which is only about 20 percent of the area beneath the lamps, and the losers are either too hot or too cold.

That results in illness or death to some piglets.

The Haven comprises a heavy PVC curtain and a parabolic reflector with a programmable thermostat, allowing producers to regulate the heat and reduce it as the pigs get older and need less thermal assistance. Its ultraviolet light sterilizes and is a source of vitamin D.

“It’s a lot like a brooder,” said Peterson. “The impact of heat for the pig is like lying on the beach.”

He said the now-patented Haven has a modular design and is durable and easy to clean. Its size fits most farrowing crates. FarrPro is based in Iowa City, Iowa.

First place winner of the Ron Ball Young Scientist Award was Juliia Moroni of the University of Alberta for her studies on sow phenotypes related to low piglet birthweight.

The second place winner was Teresa Lantz, also from the U of A, for her study using infrared spectroscopy to determine meat quality in pork chops.

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