Specialization is a major asset for Schils young animal feeds

Schils BV of Sittard in Limburg has been one of the largest internationally successful manufacturers of young animal feed for years. The company — a subsidiary of the VanDrie Group — specialises in the development, production and sale of milk replacement products for young animals, such as calves, piglets, lambs and kids. Schils stands out because the company is more than just a manufacturer. The company also has the right specialists in-house for the best young animal products. Paul Steeghs, technical specialist in piglet rearing, is an obvious example of this.

Posted on Mar 05 ,00:05

Specialization is a major asset for Schils young animal feeds

He ran his own pig farm for 22 years, and knows the industry inside out; in 2017 he joined Schils where he is able to put his practical knowledge to good use. "Piglet feed has become increasingly specialised in recent years, so Schils was looking for a professional. That was when I came into the picture," explains Steeghs, who works with a business development manager and a nutrition specialist on the Schils piglet team.

At Schils, practical knowledge and specialisation have helped develop a wide range of animal feeds for piglets in recent years. They also produce semi-finished products. Steeghs: "We are very confident of the quality of the animal feeds we can supply to our customers. One of Schils’ strengths is that, with our practical knowledge, our customers can always find what they need within our existing range.” Even so, a tailored approach is always an option. “We can supply exactly what the customer needs," says Steeghs.

The Schils range for piglets ensures healthy, optimum growth. Schils distinguishes itself with its specialists’ willingness to experience how their products are received by the animals on location. Steeghs supports his Dutch customers in the areas of piglet feed and management for up to two weeks after weaning. "The knowledge we gain in this country is also valuable to our sales and support abroad,” says Steeghs. “When we have a new customer, I visit them several times a week at the start. Does the product do what we expect it to? Can any minor adjustments be made? Could the customer do something different themselves?" Steeghs’ practical experience is often of great benefit in such cases. He illustrates this with an example of a customer for whom the initial feeds were an immediate success, while the follow-on milk wasn’t. "I noticed that the feed system required adjustment, which resolved the problem with the follow-on milk. Thanks to my experience as a pig farmer, and frequent visits to customers, we at Schils keep on learning and are able to provide optimum support. This is a major advantage and it works both ways."

Every day, the Schils team collaborates with international partners in the market. This is a partnership the company is proud of. The team in Limburg is in contact with sales staff in domestic and foreign markets. The lines are short, and if a request for a solution comes in from abroad, the specialists can resolve this anywhere in the world.

Schils is active in no fewer than 75 countries; from Europe, Central and South America to Africa, Asia and Oceania. "We are everywhere, and we’re also developing new markets," says Steeghs. Brazil is a great example of a growth market. "There are a lot of sows, and the challenge is to provide the piglets with optimum supplementary nutrition and boost productivity." In that regard, Schils carried out some interesting research in the Netherlands: manually supplementing Schils milk products in powder form. When Steeghs later travelled to Brazil - where there are far fewer automatic feed systems - he tested these feeds with the international partner. "That was a success, because in contrast to the Netherlands, it is often impossible to mix water and powder in Brazil. Supplementing by hand worked out very well. In this way, we use the knowledge gained in our own country to provide our Brazilian customers with better support."

In order to further optimise piglet rearing, Steeghs has introduced various automatic and flexible feed systems at Schils. The best-known example is the self-designed ALFF system, which gets the very best out of the Schils products. ALFF provides fresh piglet milk 24 hours a day, fully automated, and the system can be relocated quickly and easily. Hundreds have been sold around the world. In Spain alone - a piglet market with a lot of competition - Schils has sold a hundred of these ALFF systems. "The system has undergone trials and proven its worth in practice. Our customers are very enthusiastic."

Since then, Steeghs has also developed a successor to this system: the ALFFcup. Schils presented the new ALFF system during EuroTier 2022 in November, and two of these systems are now operational in the Netherlands. The ALFFcup system is an automatic feed system for piglet milk and liquid pre-starters. What is unique about the ALFFcup system is that the cups are not fitted as standard in every farrowing pen. Within this modular system, the cups are placed where and when required. The system can be scaled up quickly and easily, with one main aim: to reduce the number of foster sows per group to zero! Steeghs: "With this innovation, we’re really working with the farmer to achieve the best possible yield."

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