Barnstädt Agricultural Company
Agrarunternehmen Barnstädt (Barnstädt Agricultural Company) and PIC extend collaboration
What is meant by calling your company an “Agrar-Unternehmen” or agricultural company?
Barnstädt AGRICULTURAL Company, AGRAR, indicates agriculture, and in the case of Agrar-Unternehmen Barnstädt, which has its registered offices in Nemsdorf-Göhrendorf, it signifies diverse farming activity. On the one hand, the most important pillar of the company’s work is arable farming, with the “common” crops of wheat, barley, rape, corn and sugar beets. Hops are also cultivated and an area of 1.5 ha is used for viticulture. On the other hand, the company also specializes in livestock production, with dairy cattle, fattening bulls and suckler cows. And of course, a multi-faceted farming - rather, agricultural - company also incorporates pigs. With the objective of a sustainable production all sites – from rearing the gilts through piglet breeding to nursery, grow-out, and finishing - are under the direction of Barnstädt Agricultural Company.
Barnstädt Agricultural COMPANY
Agriculture and enterprise? For many people, these two do not go together.
According to German Wikipedia, a company is an “economically-independent organizational unit that takes on market and capital risks with the aid of planning and decision-making instruments and makes use of one or more operations in order to pursue its corporate purpose and corporate objectives.”
This description fully applies to Agrarunternehmen Barnstädt - and certainly to many other agricultural companies. This is because, in recent years and indeed over the past decades, globalization, climate change and the ever-increasing demands of consumers have set in motion developments that pose significant challenges to farming. As a co-operatively organized company with modern, environmentally-sound production methods, ethical animal husbandry practices, and active rural conservation as the cornerstones of its state-of-the-art agricultural activity, Agrarunternehmen Barnstädt has faced up to these challenges.
Although the land capital now consists of approximately 6,000 ha of arable land and around 50,000 animals are cared for, Agrarunternehmen Barnstädt is aware of its responsibility to the people, animals and cultural landscape of the region and respects these aspects, as well as incorporating them into the continued development of the company. This also includes responsibility for “renewable human raw materials”, as for many years now, the company has successfully been training young people (apprentices) as farmers, farmers specialized in cattle or pig husbandry, and also mechanics for farming and construction machinery.
In its form as a registered cooperative, the company is still very young, having only existed as such for 25 years, yet it is able to look back on an interesting history, as its roots stretch back to the early 1950s in the former GDR.
Consistency ensures high health status
What is more, there has been a relationship between Agrarunternehmen Barnstädt and PIC Deutschland GmbH for almost a quarter of a century. Piglet production with PIC genetics commenced in the early 1990s. This always took place within a Closed Herd System. From 1996 to 2004, Agrarunternehmen Barnstädt was also a gilt multiplier for PIC with the sow unit in Nemsdorf (700 sows). Nine years ago, the company management took the decision to overhaul the health aspects of its pig production. Since then, it has succeeded in maintaining the high health status. Furthermore, high health status in this context does not just mean free from PRRS and mycoplasmas, but also free for APP, RA and swine dysentery, as well as salmonella-controlled in QA category I. A success that is not only a matter of pride for Ralf Hägele, chairman of the cooperative, but also particularly for Dr Jens Kluge, the member of the Management Board with principal responsibility for this branch of the pig business.
The organization of the company’s pig production is characterized by consistency in all areas. This is not merely a credo preached by Dr. Kluge. Every employee that you meet in the stall has internalized this guiding principle. This fact is borne out by the conversations during our visit to the stall, where the work steps, hygiene procedures, separation of the different production areas within one site, changes of clothing, etc. are explained as a matter of course.
For example, the consistent hygiene concept also includes the fact that the transport of the pigs is carried out entirely by the company itself. Since 2007, no third-party vehicle - excluding PIC vehicles checked in accordance with the PIC biosecurity guidelines - has entered any of the farms. What is more, even PIC vehicles are only permitted to access the sites on Mondays, however, in most cases, the pigs are transshipped.
When you consider the scope of pig production across the various sites, it is clear that coordinating a total of 3,700 sows and approximately 45,000 rearing and fattening places at twelve sites constitutes a not-inconsiderable challenge. On the other hand, distributing production across the different sites has had the positive effect of creating greater production security by breaking possible infection chains. Moreover, we must not forget the improved integration into the rural environment and support of the structures in the overall catchment area of the agricultural company.
PIC Multiplication – new at the Niedertrebra site
Against the background of the long-standing business relationship between Agrarunternehmen Barnstädt and PIC, it was pretty much a given that the possibilities for further expansion of the collaboration would be discussed when it came to stock the newly-acquired site in Niedertrebra - the feeder pig production unit of the “Ilmtal” agricultural company - and integrating it into the production organisation.
Niedertrebra is located in the North East of the Weimar district in the Ilm valley within Thuringia, approximately half way between Bad Sulza and Apolda.
At the end of May, the first piglets were finally born in Niedertrebra. However, before this could happen, a number of things had to be renovated, cleaned and disinfected, adapted and reorganized.
After the entire unit was emptied in October last year, work started at the gestation area, as this was where the first gilts were to be housed. In order to provide more time for the renovation works, the breeding of gilts for restocking took place in the fattening facility in Asendorf, which functioned as a breeding unit for this period. Anyone who is familiar with insemination management, and gilt breeding, in particular, will be aware of the challenges. However, conception rates of 95% and above (positive ultrasound scan) are clear evidence of the competence and skill of Thomas Labudda, who took on the responsibility of managing this work. In fact, he is responsible for the gilt insemination operation, which supplies the other sow operations with pregnant gilts, and since late January he has been doing his bit to ensure that the new multiplication unit gets off to a good start.
Genetic basis from PIC’s Podelzig nucleus
In a total of three deliveries, 1,471 L03 gilts from PIC’s Podelzig daughter nucleus operation in Brandenburg have been supplied to Thuringia via the breeding unit in Asendorf, and will form the genetically high-quality and extremely healthy basis for successful Camborough® production at the Niedertrebra site. Once the stocking period has come to an end, the operation will operate as a Closed Herd System and produce the replacement gilts itself. This means that the genetic “update” comes via semen from GFS, PIC’s long-standing AI partner. L03 semen for the production of pure-breed gilts and L02 semen for Camborough production. Exact data recording and evaluation is necessary to ensure that the “correct” boars - i.e. those of the highest genetic quality - are used. Those working in the Barnstädt operations are already familiar with this concept, as the data management of the other operations is carried out of by the PigDatenDienst service in Polkenberg for many years now, with the data being managed in PIC’s global PIC®Traq database. On this basis, the weekly genetic reports and breeding lists can be generated. In addition, they receive the monthly genetic reports with most important the KPIs and their development executes any adjustments advised by PIC's Genetic Service.
First farrowing in late May
The calculation is simple: the first litters will arrive three months, three weeks and three days after the first insemination. Everyone here has taken note of the date, the day is in week 20. Then the sows will move group by group into the farrowing units, with a total of 300 places in five rooms, designed for four weeks of lactation. At the end of April, construction work was still in full swing here. However, even this took place in accordance with the high hygiene standards at all times, as the workers who were dealing with the farrowing sections did not enter the stall at all. Everything is carried out directly from outside, as the doors to the central corridor are firmly locked, sealed with construction foam and also secured with a crossbar, so that there is no opportunity or temptation to enter the inner part where production is already underway.
The sows access the farrowing sections through a passageway in a partition within the central corridor, after passing through the sow shower, while employees pass through an interlock where they change their clothing.
Each area is supervised by different employees, and items of equipment and clothing can be clearly distinguished by their colors. In the central corridor, transverse partitions separate the individual areas from one another. This is just one further detail that is intended to help maintain the health status.
Quick integration into the group following insemination
After weaning, the sows are transferred in the breeding area. There are two sets of 70 crates installed here for the weaned and/or freshly bred sows, along with group pens for seven gilts/ten older sows. The aim is to transfer the sows to the group pens nine days after weaning. They then move on into the gestation area following a successful pregnancy check. Group housing for sows is required by law in Europe. No crating allowed up to one week before farrowing and after four weeks after breeding.
Following weaning, the piglets are relocated to the nursery, where there are 4,600 places available. Their route to this area takes them via a scale integrated into the central corridor so that their weaning weights can be documented.
PIC gilt rearing – new at the Hermstedt site
Further rearing of all young pigs from an approximate weight of 30 kg, both sows, and barrows, then takes place in Hermstedt, around 20 km away. There are 12,500 places with liquid feeding available here. Following depopulation of this finishing facility in April and thorough cleaning and disinfection, the first feeder pigs/growers are brought into their stalls at the end of July. In addition, the appropriate opportunities for selection of gilts must still be created and the employees must be trained accordingly in how to assess the animals and collect the data.
In November, the first PIC customers will then hear the following words: “Your new PIC gilts originate from the Niedertrebra-Hermstedt pyramid.”