The invention improves the collection of blood in pigs

Veterinarian Jewel White and her colleagues are the winners of this year’s FX Aherne Award for Innovative Pork Production for creating something they call the “Backspacer.”

The invention is simple, but significantly improves animal care and worker safety pig barns during blood sampling.

White is the herd veterinarian for Maple Leaf Agri-Farms in Landmark, Man. and regularly collects blood samples.

Why does it matter: The Backspacer makes blood sampling easier and safer for both workers and animals.

“The most common method is for a barn worker to use a trap to hold the sow in a temporary box for the procedure and pull the pig forward while the team member leans into the stable,” she said. “Pulling the pig forward with a trap stresses both the pig and the team member. And if the trap loosens, the pig can suddenly hurt the team member and cause injury.

“I thought there should be a device that would make blood collection safer and less stressful, so I looked at the process. I realized that if we could move the pig forward to the end of the box during the process so that he could not return, the team member could have better access to draw blood. “

Not only would this create less stress for the pig, but it would be safer for humans handling pigs. It also had to be portable, comfortable for the pig, and easy to wash and disinfect.

White said he discussed the idea with veterinary assistant Ronald Nayre and maintenance technician Jim Kehler.

“Together, the three of us discussed and developed the Backspacer Maple Leaf Agri-Farms (MLAF), which met all of our success criteria.”

She said the team conceptualized a smooth spacer that could be inserted behind a pig – almost as if you were moving a car seat forward so that the driver is well positioned and safe.

“We created a lightweight aluminum device that could be placed in the stand during the process and moved to the next tab when the process is complete.”

The Backspacer has the following components:

• 1 inch square aluminum tube

• 5/16 inch stainless steel rod

• ¾ x 3/16 inch stainless steel flat bar

• 1/8 inch disc scale

“Through our innovation, we have reduced stress on pigs, improved general care, and protected our people,” White said. “Given the success we have had with our breeding herds, we have now created identical devices for all of our Maple Leaf Agri-Farms sows.”

She said her team is happy to share the concept with the larger pork industry to improve the care that all pig producers can give their pigs.

The design of the device followed a typical pattern for Aherne award winners, said Ben Willing, chair of the award committee, an associate professor at the University of Alberta.

“Someone has an idea, often teammates get involved and the product ends up being used in that operation and in others in the industry,” he said. “These grassroots efforts usually attract widespread interest because they make a real difference in the day-to-day production work.”

The award is named after Frank Aherne, a former professor at the University of Alberta and a major force for science-based progress in the Canadian pork industry. It was presented at the recent Banff Pork Seminar. The invention improves the collection of blood in pigs

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