Helmut Janz has developed a tool that improves handling for baby pigs at processing and improves the health and wellbeing of farm workers. For that he has been awarded the 2014 F.X. Aherne Prize for Innovative Pork Production by the Banff Pork Seminar.
Janz, a barn manager for Maple Leaf in Zhoda, Man. recognized the need for a better way to process baby piglets when he saw employees suffer repetitive stress and strain injuries as a result of performing piglet processing tasks.
His "piglet processing arm" invention gently and safely holds the animal and allows it to be pivoted and rotated during the handling process. This makes the processing of piglets a safer task by eliminating the potential for repetitive stress and strain injuries on the employees.
The design is simple, constructed out of six simple, standardized, easy-to-source, low cost parts.
A universal joint similar to what is used on power take off shafts on tractors serves as the basis for the device. A holding plate for the piglets is attached to that and mounted on the processing cart. Foam inserts cradle the piglet and a Velcro strap easily holds the piglet in place.
The processing arm attaches to a processing cart, and can be adjusted for employee height and used easily by both right and left handed people.
With this new tool processing tasks such as injections, tattooing, castrating, tail docking and oral drenching can now all be done with the piglet in the cradle by simply swiveling the arm to the correct position. Since the piglet can be processed without being held and squeezed by staff, there is less stress on the animal and far less repetitive stress on the staff.
The arm is now used by 40 people in 20 barns across the Maple Leaf system and will be used on approximately 1.5 million piglets annually.
As well, Maple Leaf is now manufacturing new custom designed carts for their barns with two arms. Use of the carts will be a mandatory part of operating procedures because they are seen as an important opportunity to improve injury prevention.
"Innovation is the lifeblood of any industry and the F.X. Aherne Prize for Innovative Pork Production is an opportunity to recognize those individuals who have developed either original solutions to pork production challenges or creative uses of known technology," says Dr. Michael Dyck of the University of Alberta, chair of the F.X. Aherne prize committee.
The award is named after the late Dr. Frank Aherne, a professor of swine nutrition and production at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and a major force for science-based progress in the western Canadian pork industry.