One of the best things about having done a Nuffield Scholarship is the access to the study groups and the annual winter conference.


Where else would you hear 29 papers on topics as diverse as innovations in carrot processing and rural stress? Not only that, there is a complete absence of point-scoring politicians reading over long papers written by someone else. With each paper strictly limited to 12 minutes, key points had to be put over and justified concisely.

I’m sure everyone who attended will have returned home with some useful pointers for their business. A well-known milk producer from Dewsbury only just failed to beat a successful sheep breeder and turf grower at asking the most questions, and I’m pleased to note the latter has now been converted to eating the world’s most popular (and tasty) meat.

On the pig unit we are entering winter mode. The back doors are back on the dry sow huts and we have adjusted the position of the farrowing huts in an attempt to avoid driving rain and cold winds. Straw use has increased markedly.

We’ve had a couple of gilts that decided they weren’t too enthused about their plush and well-bedded farrowing huts, or too bothered by the electric fence and wandered off to farrow at one with nature, both choosing bracken as the ideal nest building material. This worked quite well for them both as one had 13 and the other 17. Fortunately both were found thanks to Robin, my sheep farming neighbour, and Andrew, the gamekeeper, before rain could do any damage to the truly free-range born piglets.

Our annual audit for Assured British Pigs and Freedom Foods went well. What once seemed daunting has now become part of the routine despite. Perhaps keeping high standards has become a habit, which is what these schemes are all about.

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