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Bright ideas from a big swine farm

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By Zac B. Sarian

  • READY FOR THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE – Dr. Ariel Peregrino, operations manager of the RDF Pig Farm, poses with fattened pigs at the RDF pig farm in Foridablanca, Pampanga, ready for shipping to the ‘AA’ slaughter house accredited by the National Meat Inspection Services. The meats are further processed at the meat-cutting plant under strict supervision by quality assurance representatives. From the central depot, the meats are delivered in refrigerated vans to all outlets of Fresh Options Meatshop.

  • WEANLINGS IN FLORIDABLANCA FACILITY – Dr. Ariel Peregrino, a veterinarian who graduated from the Central Luzon State University, poses with newly-arrived piglets for growing and finishing in the RDF piggery in Floridablanca, Pampanga. There is no aggressiveness among the weanlings because they have been trained to mingle and become familiar with one another as early as one week from birth.

  • SILO FOR AUTOMATIC FEEDING – There are only few workers in the piggery in Floridablanca, Pampanga, because the pigs are provided with automatic feeders and waterers. The supply is regulated by a computer system so that the right amount of feed is supplied at the right time.

  • EXHAUST FANS FOR COMFORTABLE GROWING HOUSE – The buildings for growing and finishing swine at the RDF Piggery are equipped with industrial exhaust fans to control the humidity inside the hog house for the comfort of the animals. These are supplied by Zenith Electric United Corporation.

  • COMPANY LOGISTICS – RDF Feed, Livestock and Foods, Inc. has its own trucks for hauling the pigs for bringing them to the accrdited slaughter houses where the hogs are slaughtered and then processed in the meat-cutting plant. In the Fresh Options Meatshop, fresh cuts, marinated, ready-to-cook, ready-to-heat and other value-added meats are displayed in upright chillers and freezers (instead of chest-type) to maintain constant and even temperature.

  • FLORIDABLANCA FARM MANAGER – Jojo Dimaiwat is the farm manager in the Floridablanca growing facility of RDF piggery. There are just a few workers under him because most of the chores are automated. Below Macaiwat are a leadman and six workers. Biosecurity is very strict to prevent disease outbreak. The workers have to work in the piggery premises until the animals are harvested. After harvest, the workers go on vacation for two weeks. There are monetary incentives for them if their targeted outputs are attained.

    Talking to Dr. Ariel Peregrino, you will be impressed how he goes about managing a huge piggery operation that boasts of 2,000-sows to produce the pork requirements of more than a hundred meatshops, restaurants and other outlets owned by the mother company.

    The mother company is the highly integrated RDF Feed, Livestock and Foods, Inc. established by Dr. Robert Lo, a veterinary doctor-turned entrepreneur. RDF stands for Red Dragon Farm, the name of his first company when he started as a contract grower of a big poultry integrator. The enterprise has since expanded to include a feedmill, poultry and swine production, meatshops (Fresh Options), restaurants and other outlets.

    The piggery is a major player in the integrated business and Dr. Peregrino has been tasked to be its operations manager. The setup is quite unique compared to other commercial piggeries. For one, the farm does not sell the piglets produced by the 2,000 sows. They are all fattened to be slaughtered, processed into a variety of meat products and sold through the company’s meatshops and restaurants. A breeding farm with 1,000 sows is found in San Jose, Tarlac and another in Magalang, Pampanga with the same breeder population.

    Planning, forecasting and coordination are very important in running the big piggery, according to Dr. Peregrino. Plans are made on a weekly basis and not months. That’s because months have different number of days whereas all weeks have seven days. Forecasting is also very important to make sure you will know how to go about achieving your targets. Coordination with the other players in the integrated business is no less important because you have to be a team player.

    Last March 9, we visited the piggery’s farm in Floridablanca, Pampanga, where we observed weanlings being brought there for fattening. A batch of 400 weanlings (four weeks old) were brought to a 400-square meter building equipped with exhaust fans, automatic feeders and waterers. In that one building, the weanlings will stay there until they are ready for shipping to the slaughterhouse.

    To produce the 400 weanlings, 60 sows are inseminated artificially at the same time on a Thursday. The female breeders are induced to become in heat with the help of hormones, Sixteen weeks later, they will give birth on a Friday. And 28 days later the piglets will be weaned on a Saturday and brought to the growing and finishing house.

    NO NEEDLE TEETH CLIPPING – The breeders, by the way, are confined in steel crates. In many other piggeries, the needle teeth of the piglets are clipped as soon as they are born to prevent damaging the teats of their mother. At the RDF piggery, they don’t clip the needle teeth. Aside from being laborious, clipping could sometimes cause infection. They have a way of avoiding damaging the mother’s teats. This is done by feeding the mother pigs frequently, say six times a day. Dr. Peregrino says that the sow will always stand when eating, and so the piglets don’t suckle for long periods, hence avoiding hurting the teats. Not clipping the needle teeth is one way of avoiding stress in the piglets.

    Another way of avoiding stress among piglets is to allow them to mingle with one another as early as one week from birth. This is done this way. The mother pigs are confined in crates, each with a divider. On the seventh day, the divider of two crates is removed so the piglets will mingle and get familiar with one another. On the next week, the dividers of two other adjacent crates are removed so that more piglets will become more friendly with one another instead of becoming aggressive. That, again, reduces stress among the piglets which is good for their wellbeing. (For lack of space, we will write more about the bright ideas at the RDF pig farm later. Full details will be in the Agriculture Magazine April issue.)

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