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Piglet arm makes processing easier

Manitoba hog barn manager Helmut Janz recently won an award for a tool he developed to improve handling for baby pigs at processing.

Janz, a barn manager for Maple Leaf in Zhoda, Man., has developed what he calls a “piglet arm” after seeing the need for a better way to process baby piglets. In barns where thousands of baby pigs are handled each year, employees were suffering repetitive stress and strain injuries as a result of performing piglet processing tasks. And hand holding squirming piglets is stressful on the animals too.

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. For the invention, Janz was awarded the 2014 F. X. Aherne Prize for Innovative Pork Production by the Banff Pork Seminar.

The design of the piglet arm is simple, constructed out of six simple, standardized, easy-to-source, low-cost parts.

A universal joint similar to what is used on power takeoff shafts on tractors serves as the basis for the device. A holding plate to cradle the piglets is attached to the top of the joint and the whole unit is mounted on the processing cart. Foam inserts on the holding plate 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 swivelling 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.

From the Manitoba Co-operator website: Mechanical processing arm receives award

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.

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