By asking this question a year ago about Accelerators (products that change the pig’s lifetime growth trajectory) I was conscious that many of us suffer from 'Cognitive Prejudice' - preferring to follow outdated understanding even in the face of new and contrary evidence. One year on views have started to change and we have discovered many new things about accelerators.
Trials around the world (France, Spain, Italy, Hungary) show that a reduction in pre-weaning mortality by up to 5% is part of the accelerator effect - and not as we had first thought, being due to the extra care taken when running a trial. With 1% mortality being worth around £5/litter, anything that reduces pre-weaning mortality is essential for the farmer. Approximately one third of all pre-weaning mortality that occurs after day 4 is largely due to starvation and farmer feedback shows that offering an accelerator from day 4 reduces these starvation-related deaths.
Killing out %.
Accelerators 'change' the piglet and trials show a significant improvement in killing out % where the only difference is an Accelerator offered pre-weaning. Quite a remarkable discovery for something that is only offered in the first few weeks of life.
A transformational growth curve
Conventional practice shows that an improved weaning weight will deliver a slaughter weight in the ratio of around 3:1 (that is 0.25kg at weaning gives 0.75kg at slaughter (old knowhow). Whereas Accelerators increase slaughter weights by 2.5-5kg without any prior improvement in weaning weight, transforming the thinking behind what drives growth from weaning to slaughter.
Trials and adoption
Perhaps my biggest disappointment (and realisation) of the year has been the number of poorly run farm trials. Some producers can be sceptical of large amounts of trial results from another country (academic & commercial) leading them to run their own farm trial but then to make basic errors and fail to complete the trial. A well run farm trial makes a significant contribution to any farm business and so should be a basic skill. This year has shown me that it is a lost skill in too many farms and where trials are run correctly, they see the clear business case and adopt the highly cost effective accelerator technology for themselves.
Mode of action
This time last year I was expecting some of our mode of action studies would be beginning to explain how Accelerators are weaving their magic and levels of belief would rise as new solid science was revealed. Cutting edge science takes time and it looks like we will have a definitive mode of action revealed to us all next year. I take heart however as I know that we are working with others on the science to explain the mode of action and next year several independent science groups will also report on different scientific aspects of how Accelerators work.
It's a real thrill to me to see at first hand how pig farmers around the world are seeing the accelerator effect in their own stock, and 2016 promises to be a significant year when we will be able to announce the mode of action behind this novel technology.