More South Australian piggery staff have completed ProHand pig handling training during the past three years than in all other states combined.
Of the 393 stockpeople nationally who have completed a full ProHand course since 2009, 233 have been staff working in SA piggeries.
ProHand is a training course designed by Melbourne and Monash University animal welfare researchers to teach piggery stockpeople correct pig handling and moving techniques.
It also demonstrates the influence of poor pig handling techniques on pig welfare and productivity, and increases the understanding of their pivotal role in managing pig welfare on-farm.
The ProHand training course has been available to the Australian pork industry for some years, but an injection of funding from Australian Pork Ltd in 2008-09 enabled the program's content to be updated and refreshed, ready for renewed uptake by the industry.
The course content is a valuable resource to those farms wanting their staff to complete the competency skillset Move and Handle Livestock.
Since 2009, delivery of ProHand in SA has been financially supported by the (SA) Pig Industry Advisory Group, using funding provided through the State-based Pig Industry Fund. The program's regional delivery is facilitated by pig industry consultant Graeme Pope, Nuriootpa.
The on-farm application of more frequent 'positive' (rather than 'negative') handling of pigs leads to an improvement in stockperson job satisfaction, through a reduction in the amount of physical effort required to move pigs and an increase in the predictability of their movements, as they become less fearful of close human interaction.
At the same time, pig growth rates, fertility and carcase quality respond to more routine positive handling used in the piggery and during loading and transport.
Examples of positive pig handling include pats, strokes, slow movements, less shouting and a hand resting along the moving pig's backline, when appropriate.
The completion of ProHand has also prompted some trainees to re-evaluate their piggery's handling infrastructure, such as improvements in the design of frequently used raceways, gates and yards leading to loading ramps, allowing pigs to move more smoothly while dealing with the presence of stockpeople, as well as the challenges of extra noise, mixing of pigs and novel environments.
As Australian piggeries increasingly move into sow stall-free production systems, farm staff will be required to routinely move more pigs and more frequently.
•Details: Graeme Pope Consulting, Nuriootpa, 0438 423 900.
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