Research Barn Provides Competitive Advantage

research barnA new wean-to-finish barn built near Edgerton, Minnesota, has become an important tool for Pipestone Grow Finish (PGF) in providing information and services to their Nutrition customers.

The barn is a 2,400 head wean-to-finish research barn will allow Pipestone to conduct nutrition research with nursery and finisher pigs.  It is the fifth research barn built within the Pipestone Management, however the first one to focus solely on nutrition for growing pigs. The research barn is managed in partnership between PGF and Pipestone Applied Research team.

“We’re excited about the opportunities that the research barn will provide for us to test new products, new diet formulations, new biologicals and even new management practices,” said Casey Neill, nutritionist for Pipestone Grow Finish. “It is a significant investment that will enable us to conduct unbiased research and share those results with our shareholders and customers.”

The barn is designed to be as similar to a commercial wean-to- finish barn as possible, said Neill.

“Our goal is to conduct research trials in an environment that is as close to what our shareholders’ barns are like as possible,” he said.  “We want our results to be applicable to commercial production.”

The barn does include a number of features that allow for research trials to be conducted, monitored and measured effectively.  The barn is split into two large rooms that can hold 1,200 pigs in each with 42 test pens on each side.

“Having 84 total pens gives us the ability to do more replications of trials, which increases the reliability and statistical significance of the results,” said Neill.

research squareThere are a total of 16 feed bins that can hold various ration formulations.  Feeding is managed by a Feed Logic system and robot.  Feed for each pen is weighed according to pre-programmed rations and delivered electronically by the robot that travels on a rail system hanging from the ceiling.  There are also two water lines to each pen, so that a water treatment could be tested in the future.

“Using this system, we can assign specific rations to specific pens,” said Casey.  “We know exactly what is being delivered to each pen so we are able to calculate feed efficiency, gain, and other performance factors.”

The barn also features scales that can weigh an entire pen or an individual pig, depending on the focus of the study.

Dr. Barry Kerkaert, President of Pipestone Grow Finish, said the new barn is an important part of the system’s commitment to ensuring that shareholders have a competitive edge.

“The research barn will allow us to validate our current nutrition recommendations and test new or different options to see what provides the most benefit to customers in their own commercial barns,” said Dr. Kerkaert.

Pipestone expects to run two to six trials a year in the new barn, depending on whether the research is focused on nursery pigs or finisher pigs.

The first trial was started in August 2015 when the barn was finished.  The six-week nursery trial compared four different nursery starter programs, said Neill.

“We challenged our current nursery starter programs with three other options to try and improve performance or reduce costs,” he said.  “The current program outperformed the other options, validating that we are on the right track with current recommendations.”

The second trial began in November and will be a wean-to-finish study that will run about six months.

Pipestone Grow Finish provides a team of experts to provide assistance at every stage of production.  In January 2014, Neill joined Pipestone Grow Finish and began providing Nutrition services as part of the offering to shareholders.

PGF Nutrition formulates rations for sows in Pipestone Management barns, as well as providing nursery and finisher diets for producers in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and growing across the Midwest.  There are now about 1.5 million pigs in the program.

“Running multiple nutrition trials in the research barn will allow us to keep competitive and up-to-date on nutrition ideas, which will help Pipestone Management shareholders stay competitive,” said Neill.  “In studies, our current diets are always the control, and we are looking for ways to either improve performance or reduce costs for producers.”

Pipestone customers will benefit from access to the unbiased research results, said Dr. Kerkaert.

“Win, lose or draw, we will share the information,” he said.  “Full transparency in the research results is important to give producers a competitive advantage.”