DESPITE pronouncements from local sages that foxes will not take piglets or that nine-strand 120cm-high electric fencing will not keep them out, I finally bit the bullet and installed fox fencing.

It is still too early to tell the long-term effects. But numbers born were up and mortality is down on the first batch, to the extent that the fence”s cost is already recouped. If only all investments were like that, with the added pleasure of the thought of dealing a 4000-volt shock to such despicable thieves.

On the rearing and finishing side, we have tried a number of products. One batch of pigs was vaccinated with Porcilis PRRS at weaning. Another had BOCM Pauls’ Stimmulate starter feeds, while a third batch was given a new antibiotic called Draxxin, as a prophylactic at weaning, having already had great success using it to treat ill pigs.

All have given significantly improved results right through rearing and finishing. As the pigs were in all-in, all-out batches, we have an accurate measure of their performance.

However, these cannot be described as proper trials. One of these products is likely to be incorporated into our system. Cost and economic return will, of course, influence our decision.

But other factors are important in a business where time is at a premium, such as how it fits into or alters our existing regime, particularly as we already administer pneumonia vaccine at weaning.

I am quite keen on routinely using Draxxin. I have some reservations about routine use of antibiotics, but less so when it means their routine in feed use can be reduced or eliminated at a later stage.

The theory is that the antibiotic will clear up the beginnings of any respiratory problems in all pigs and, as they go onto clean farms, there is no means of re-infection.

All I have to do is build up enough courage to try a batch. Recent vet feedback from the abattoir shows our pig”s lung scores to be low, indicating either the success of the pneumonia vaccine or the batch system or both.