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Dennis Bridgeford

14 December 2001

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) at Petley

Farm in Easter Ross, north

of Inverness. The farm

comprises a 480-sow

indoor unit producing 95kg

pigs for one outlet and 85kg

pigs for a local abattoir. A

further 320 sows are run

outdoors. Land not used for

pigs grows spring barley

THE loss of our part-time farrowing attendant caused more problems than I could have imagined because the first week after she left coincided with a weeks holiday for the other farrowing attendant.

The result was that yours truly had to get organised. To say I was running about like the proverbial blue fly was putting it mildly. I am now convinced that it pays to have staff in attendance just to observe and react during the main farrowing day. More so for us when this coincides with weaning day. To employ a person for only one day/week is going to prove almost impossible.

The extension of our wet feeding is up and running with initial results encouraging. The builders did a tremendous job, with a first class finish. Its brought a redundant building back into production. We will monitor the first batch with interest, not that I need convincing. Hopefully the extra time on wet feed will help with the switch to dry feed for the final weeks prior to slaughter.

In the middle of all this work, I managed one day in Northern Ireland, invited by our creep feed supplier. The main part of the visit was to the pig research farm at Hillsborough. It was gratifying to see some basic research underway that has relevance to producers.

The real eye opener was their calculation on the difference between cost of producing the most efficient pig in their unit and the least efficient. This amounted to more than £25/pig; a frightening amount.

With prices beginning to rise again to levels they should never have left, the smile is beginning to reappear. But, Im concerned that pig producers cannot continue with prices just on or about break even. We must generate profits somewhere along the line to return the industry to an even keel.

With the next batch of legislation about to hit us with more costs, you cant help feeling we are in for another tough year. On this rather worrying note, I would like to wish my fellow long suffering pig farmers compliments of the season. With the onset of the New Year, lets hope all sectors of farming have a happier and less stressful year. &#42

Short of farrowing staff, its been back to basics for Dennis Bridgeford recently. Finding someone for one day a week is proving difficult.

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Dennis Bridgeford

16 November 2001

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) at Petley

Farm in Easter Ross, north

of Inverness. The farm

comprises a 480-sow

indoor unit producing 95kg

pigs for one outlet and 85kg

pigs for a local abattoir. A

further 320 sows are run

outdoors. Land not used for

pigs grows spring barley

MY predictions of last month came to fruition with the purchase of the Malton operation by the Grampian Food Group.

I wish them well. I hope Grampians drive and enthusiasm will mark the beginning of improved financial returns to all sectors involved in pig production.

Over the years, the outdoor unit has had the odd problem with foxes, but controllable. However, for some reason over the past few weeks they have developed a taste for pigmeat. One night, a litter was targeted and six piglets were missing in the morning.

With no fox-hunting with hounds in our area – it is pretty ineffective anyway – we engaged the help of a local sharp-shooter. Our own staff have also had some success, but it appears to be a growing problem.

In a costs purge, three months ago, we decided after seven years to change our outdoor sow rolls supplier. This was not done lightly, in fact I was exceedingly reluctant, but when we calculated the saving it amounted to £300 a month.

We have been pleasantly surprised to date that the cheaper diet, which has a similar specification to the previous one, has had no ill effect on sow condition. I hope this will continue as winter approaches.

Due to the dire price of pigs over the past few months, I have been dragging my feet on our conversion work to create extra weaner accommodation. But after a slight improvement in market conditions, we have begun to lay concrete and build supporting walls for the pen divisions.

The conversion will be used for housing pigs from flat decks, allowing more pigs to be offered wet feed. The advantages should be twofold, allowing more space in flat decks for slightly smaller pigs and enabling us to feed all pigs wet feed for longer.

I must be mad, but the business cannot stand still. I keep convincing myself the extra space will allow us to sell heavier pigs. It is rather ironic that grain is relatively cheap, but we are still struggling to achieve a reasonable return. This highlights the damage done to the industry over the past three years.

With the machinery problems we were experiencing last month behind us, it came as a great disappointment that my part-time farrowing assistant has decided to move on.

Having her here worked a treat. We left her to do the motherly part on Wednesdays when most farrowings take place. As though to rub salt into the wound, she is going to work in a supermarket, hopefully to sell British bacon. &#42

Foxes seem to have developed a keen taste for pigmeat on Dennis Bridgefords outdoor unit and they have been proving difficult to control.

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Dennis Bridgeford

19 October 2001

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) at Petley

Farm in Easter Ross, north

of Inverness. The farm

comprises a 480-sow

indoor unit producing 95kg

pigs for one outlet and 85kg

pigs for a local abattoir. A

further 320 sows are run

outdoors. Land not used for

pigs grows spring barley

WE FINALLY managed to finish combining at the end of September. In desperation we cut the final flat acres of barley with the silage mower, to the amusement of my neighbours.

The mower made a reasonable job of cutting the crop, which was then lifted with the combine. It is rather ironic that the end result was of good quality and quantity.

I cannot ever recollect baling in October. Straw is normally big square baled, but at the final push we just couldnt get the required quality, so we finished with round bales.

After the buzz of harvest I always feel a bit flat. This may have something to do with the outgoing grain cheques. With an abundance of wet feed barley in the area, we decided to purchase to the limit of our storage capacity. Only time will tell if this has been a sound investment.

After discussions with our nutritionist, we have dropped wheat in all grower diets because of its high price. If we could get an increase in the pig price a serious improvement in the strength of our business would be possible.

Our machinery hassles grind on relentlessly. The replacement mill has been nothing short of a disaster area, with even the engineer about to admit defeat. For some reason the rotors fail to run smoothly. To the companys credit it is going to replace it.

Is a big change about to happen in the slaughter and manufacturing side of the pig industry with the sale of the Malton group to the Grampian Food Group? We have dealt with Grampian since its expansion from chicken to pig meat. Sometimes we managed to unearth better prices on deals, but it has managed to stand the test of time.

Obviously Unigate has lost interest in pigs. Let it move over and give someone with drive and enthusiasm a go. Lets face it, the industry cannot be any worse off than we have been over the last few years and, more importantly, Grampian use home produced carcasses consistently. &#42

Decisions, decisions… Steve Morris choice of co-op to join could be swayed by the state of the farm road.

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Dennis Bridgeford

1 June 2001

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) at Petley

Farm in Easter Ross, north

of Inverness. The farm

comprises a 480-sow

indoor unit producing 95kg

pigs for one outlet and 85kg

pigs for a local abattoir. A

further 320 sows are run

outdoors. Land not used for

pigs grows spring barley

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) at Petley

Farm in Easter Ross, north

of Inverness. The farm

comprises a 480-sow

indoor unit producing 95kg

pigs for one outlet and 85kg

pigs for a local abattoir. A

further 320 sows are run

outdoors. Land not used for

pigs grows spring barley

JEAN has been working full-time over the last few months and as a treat we took a week in the sun over Easter. It was a first class break with plenty of sun and good food.

The problems started when we came home. The boys went down with colds, Jean with flu and not to be outdone, I got pneumonia. Its at times like this that I am glad we have good staff.

Pig prices stubbornly refuse to rise. With slaughter numbers dramatically back, I keep expecting prices to break through the £1/kg level.

Our financial year-end is Apr 30 and three weeks later the accounts are ready for the auditors. When I started out in business we did the accounts as a team, husband and wife. This lasted for no more than three months. It was a disaster area – the best decision I ever made was to employ a specialist; she is worth her weight in gold.

Its all about discipline. The fact I am employing someone makes me sit down and have the information at hand. The added benefit is bliss at home.

We hope to have draft results back by mid-June. Hopefully they will agree with our management figures, but auditors always seem to find some gremlins.

One cost that is screaming out is levies. The 65p/pig I contribute to promotion would appear to be of little benefit. I note that pig meat consumption has reduced over the last few years by 5%.

If I was a soap powder executive and had lost this amount of market share, heads would roll. A serious re-think is required, for what is a serious amount of money. When you add the joint levy, classification levy and meat inspection charges, they add up to £1.64/pig.

Spring barley is now looking well – we were all requiring rain, then right on cue it arrived, along with some sunshine. The agronomist had a walk over it and as usual manganese is a problem, the downside of sandy soil. It must have looked reasonably well as I didnt receive a lecture from him on some operation we did badly. &#42

Dennis Bridgeford is concerned that although he pays a promotion levy, pig meat consumption has fallen in the last few years.

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Dennis Bridgeford

1 May 1998

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) in Easter

Ross, about 40 miles north

of Inverness. The farm

comprises of a 480-sow

indoor unit producing 95kg

pigs for one outlet and 85kg

pigs for a more local

abattoir. A further 320 sows

are run outdoors, with

progeny sold at 7kg

AS luck would have it the year we decide to move dry sow paddocks is the wettest start to April for years.

We have had snow, wind and rain at a time when the dust is normally blowing after sowing. Need-less to say sowing has hardly started, with pools of water everywhere, and with our light, sandy soil, once it gets sodden it caps. The new grass has got off to a bad start, being poached already. Let us hope for a drier spell at the end of the month.

We decided not to move the farrowing paddocks yet. We are still using some of the original ones we set up five years ago, but have not had any problems. This appears to be the advantage of individual paddocks, and while we have a strict bedding burn programme we also spray the huts with disinfectant between batches.

The outdoor sows have come through the winter well. We increase our feed during the winter months and are using 1.3t a sow a year. I often get asked if there is a big difference between the two units. The indoor unit uses 1.1t a sow a year and being home mixed there is a significant cost saving.

With the low pig price we have decided to cease our building programme. It is the first time that I can remember that I have not had something ongoing, but needs must.

I have plenty of plans for future weaner accommodation, maternity pens and even a Dutch barn, but these will all have to wait until we can see a significant improvement in the end price for pigs. Mind you, if cereal prices were to come back to the levels that the trade is beginning to speak about for new crop grain this would help move things along. If it is a late harvest will this increase nitrogen levels in spring barley and further help with the price?

As I have put restrictions on expenditure, I have had to settle to the mundane job of routine maintenance. I have been preparing floors in the existing maternity rooms using an acrylic mixture that you mix with a power drill with a whisk on the end. You get a lovely smooth finish, like a babys bum, and it is easy to put on. It costs £25 a sow place, so it is not ridiculously expensive. I hope it will make the dreaded power washing easier and quicker.

For those that read my column regularly, wet feeding of newly weaned pigs has been a source of despair. I think we have cracked it by washing the tank out every week, offering cube drinkers of water as well as the wet feed, and lowering the specification our diets. If you get it all working properly the food intake of the pigs is tremendous.

I would agree that the food conversion is inferior to pellets, but the growth rate more than makes up for that, the bonus being the pigs grow like mushrooms. The down-specing of the diet will save us £250 a month, which all helps to cut production costs. &#42

Although the dry sow paddocks at Petley Farm have been moved, the farrowing paddocks will remain in their current situation for the time being.

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Dennis Bridgeford

3 April 1998

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) about

40 miles north of Inverness.

The farm comprises of a

480-sow indoor unit

producing 95kg pigs for one

outlet and 85kg pigs for a

more local abattoir. A further

320 sows are run outdoors,

with progeny sold at 7kg.

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) about

40 miles north of Inverness.

The farm comprises of a

480-sow indoor unit

producing 95kg pigs for one

outlet and 85kg pigs for a

more local abattoir. A further

320 sows are run outdoors,

with progeny sold at 7kg.

FEBRUARY was the month of machinery problems, and March the month of staff problems. We have enjoyed a settled work force for a number of years, but in the space of two weeks two members of our indoor staff left for the oil-rig construction industry. The problem is they both quit without giving any notice, which has left us short staffed. It is ironic that if we were to terminate someones employment with no notice we would be dragged through the courts, but if the boot is on the other foot we are almost powerless.

We managed to employ one experienced person and one with some farming background, but in an area of low pig numbers there isnt a pool of trained labour.

The indoor unit is experiencing a shortage of farrowing accommodation. I suspect the influence of our new service house has had some bearing on this. We now mix sows before serving rather than after. So far it seems the number holding to first service has improved, but we will put some figures to it when we have a full year through the system. However, it is noticeable how many sows are actually on season on the day after weaning.

One drawback of totally straw-based sow accommodation is the increase of sows with one or two of their teats not drying up properly after weaning. Is this caused by the amount of straw they eat or a bacteria from the straw? We never had a problem weaning on to stalls and slats.

We have managed to get last months weaned pig problems sorted out. We now put cube drinkers in when we wean them. The water intake over the first four days is tremendous. Wet feeding at weaning is still obviously not ensuring enough water intake, and any pig slow going to the nipple drinkers is slow to go to the wet feed. I have no doubt that wet feeding of newly weaned pigs is the way forward but if you get it wrong the results can be disastrous.

With the perilous state of farming, I decided to attend the Scottish NFU annual general meeting. The Scottish farming minister spoke well, but made it clear that there would be no quick fix. Mind you, the pig industry has had to stand on its own feet for years.

I was disappointed that the members did not elect our local delegate to the office of president, when you consider that the eventual president is only going to be there for one year and stand for the new Scottish Parliament. It will take far more than a year to get into the job, and we go through the changes at the top again. Not perfect for an organisation or industry going through difficult times. &#42

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Dennis Bridgeford

6 March 1998

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) at Petley

Farm in Easter Ross, about

40 miles north of Inverness.

The farm comprises of a

480-sow indoor unit

producing 95kg pigs for one

outlet and 85kg pigs for a

more local abattoir. A further

320 sows are run outdoors,

with progeny sold at 7kg.

THE only good news about February has been the weather, its been almost like early summer. This coupled with the longer day had made life that bit more enjoyable.

Every machine about the farm has broken down, from two tractors requiring new clutches to the fork-lift as usual needing very expensive repairs. I doubt if I would purchase another British made fork-lift as it has been rebuilt in the time it has been on the unit. Even our water pumping system for bore hole water has been giving us problems. The final straw was when one of the stockmen decided to alter the shape of the dutch barn with our relatively new tractor; the barn suffered the impact without a problem but the tractor came a definite second best, with the engine split from top to bottom.

The outdoor unit it going through a transitional stage at the moment as we move from a 50% dam line to a 25% line. This was giving us a fair amount of headaches as the new line was not standing up against the more dominant line, but as the balance changes this would appear to be getting easier. One change we have had to make is to start teeth clipping some of the larger litters, as piglet faces were getting badly cut while suckling. The sows were also jumping about a fair bit, so obviously had very tender udders.

The indoor unit has been going through one of those periods when nothing seems to be going well, and for some reason we are getting problems with our newly weaned pigs. We have taken the decision again to feed some pellets before we put them on to the wet feeding system. For some unknown reason every few months the wet feeder gives us problems with the pigs not eating, the problem disappears as quickly as it arrives but its frustrating.

With bacon pigs at 88p/kg it doesnt leave any surplus to invest; in other words we are losing money. If any pig farmer can make this pay I would like to meet him, its absolutely terrible 72kg pigs making £63.

With this in mind I decided to go on the protest march through Edinburgh, it at least made me feel a bit better. It was heartening to see that there is public support out there when you take the time to inform them. Mind you the MP from the government benches that spoke at the meeting needs some enlightening, at best he was patronising, at worst exceedingly arrogant and ill-informed.

One would have thought, when you consider that agriculture in Scotland is one of its largest industries, the Scottish Office minister would have addressed the meeting, not the office boy. &#42

Neither machinery nor pigs are performing well at the moment says Dennis Bridgeford.

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Dennis Bridgeford

6 February 1998

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) at Petley

Farm in Easter Ross, about

40 miles north of Inverness.

The farm comprises of a 480-

sow indoor unit producing

95kg pigs for one outlet and

85kg pigs for a more local

abattoir. A further 320 sows

are run outdoors, with

progeny sold at 7kg. The land

not used for pigs grows

spring barley for use in the

farms mill-and-mix plant.

THE questions on every pig farmers lips at the moment are either the price of pigs, have you finished conversion out of stalls, or what changes the new food agency will bring in.

I have no real difficulty accepting the new quango if it actually does mean that food will be safer. The main concern I have over the scheme is who is going to inspect foreign food coming into the UK?

When you acknowledge the huge amount of Continental pigmeat being shipped in, being fed on product that we are not allowed to use, with accommodation that we will not be allowed to use and wel

THE questions on every pig farmers lips at the moment are either the price of pigs, have you finished conversion out of stalls, or what changes the new food agency will bring in.

I have no real difficulty accepting the new quango if it actually does mean that food will be safer. The main concern I have over the scheme is who is going to inspect foreign food coming into the UK?

When you acknowledge the huge amount of Continental pigmeat being shipped in, being fed on product that we are not allowed to use, with accommodation that we will not be allowed to use and welfare considerations that would at the very least be frowned on in this country, there is no way this product should be sold alongside ours without distinct labelling.

What really brought this home to me was that "the man from the ministry" has been twice recently to get samples of feed to check for the inclusion of meat and bonemeal. On both occasions we have tested negative. I did not expect any other result as I have never fed this product in all the years I have produced pigs.

One of the advantages of supplying a local abattoir is the feedback you can gain. I took the advantage of checking lung scores for EP lesions this week. It would appear that the vaccine is doing a first class job; the lungs looked nice and pink and generally healthy. It will at least make me feel a bit better when I sign the vets cheque.

I have decided to take the plunge and purchase some soyabean meal on a forward contract for the middle of the year. By the law of averages I am going to get it right once in a while: The wheat I purchased at harvest has been about £10/t out, the barley just about spot on, so with soya coming in at the mid-£150s lets hope I am correct. This will have a direct result of saving £10/t on a finishing diet compared with current prices.

Our new line in gilts for the indoor unit are beginning to show great numbers born and weaned. There is no doubt that we served the first delivery too early. We are now leaving them at least 10 weeks after delivery, which is expensive but looks as though it will be worth the extra cost. But it might also help if the breeding company didnt deliver gilts that were below 100kg; I suspect where the average weight was 100kg there would be less complaint. &#42

Buying in soya on a forward contract should help save £10/t on finishing rations, says Dennis Bridgeford.

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Dennis Bridgeford

9 January 1998

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms 50ha (125 acres) at Petley Farm in

Easter Ross, about 40 miles north of Inverness. The farm

comprises of a 480-sow indoor unit producing 95kg pigs for

one outlet and 85kg pigs for a more local abattoir. A further

320 sows are run outdoors, with progeny sold at 7kg. The

land not used for pigs grows spring barley for use in the

farms mill-and-mix plant.

There is nothing that galvanises the mind better than the sudden drop in pig price experienced over the last few weeks.

Mind you, we have been waiting for it to happen, so I suppose its just what was expected. Its now time to look at the areas that can help cut costs and increase production.

We have decided to spend more money on labour, by employing a night shift in the farrowing house and moving to night farrowing. The results so far have been quite dramatic, cutting the incidence of crushing to next to nothing. This has always been a bugbear for us which we have never really got on top of.

The attendant stays with the sows all night, levelling out litters as they are born, adding that little bit of tender loving care and making sure all the piglets get enough colostrum. Its early days, but I see no reason why we should not continue, however, getting someone to do it might be the restricting factor. The wife reckons I am bad tempered enough without getting less sleep.

The hot news in the Scottish pig industry is the pending purchase of Halls of Broxburn by the Grampian Country Food group. This will almost give them a domination of Scottish pig slaughtering. You have to admire the driving force of the group. They have driven a business from the early 80s with a turnover measured in single millions, to one now in the thousand millions. Its rather ironic that the business they left to set up the Grampian Food group has all but disappeared from the Scottish supply industry.

We have been supplying Halls with pigs over the last six months, because the killing out percentage more than compensated for the extra haulage costs. We will watch with anticipation to see if the new owners make any change to this 76%, as compared to 73%.

We have just received our area aid, unfortunately in our case it does not amount to a large cheque, but its all welcome. Just one question: Why did I get paid two weeks later than the barley barons in my area – did the paymaster reckon their need was greater, the cereal sector not being familiar to low cereal prices?n

Recent reductions in finished pig prices have meant a change in farrowing house management for Dennis Bridgeford, producing more pigs a sow.

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Dennis Bridgeford

12 December 1997

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms 50ha (125 acres) at Petley Farm in

Easter Ross, about 40 miles north of Inverness. The farm

comprises of a 480-sow indoor unit producing 95kg pigs for

one outlet and 85kg pigs for a more local abattoir. A further

320 sows are run outdoors, with progeny sold at 7kg. Land not used for pigs grows spring barley for for home-mixing.

HERE we go again: The price goes below £1/kg – even with slightly cheaper cereal prices. I suspect that as pig producers, if we were entirely honest with ourselves this is below the cost of production.

No two pig producers have the same costs and I have always been very suspicious of pig men who say they can produce pigs at 90-95p/kg and make a margin. This was probably true when the cereal/pig farmer was making a reasonable margin from grain, but now that there is no excess there all the true costs have to be allocated to the pig.

Undoubtedly the strength of sterling has had a serious effect, but as an industry we have been the victim of our own success. We are all producing more, and a heavier carcass weight pig, which has put us over the magic 290,000 pigs a week on the market.

Is there a cure other than cut the price to force people out of production? Unfortunately this is becoming more and more of a blunt instrument. Most pig producers are committed to pig production – as units get more highly capital intensive, you just have to soldier on. Our only short-term hope that the sow stall and tether ban will make some people think twice about committing large sums of new investment into an industry is at best extremely fickle.

Now that I have got all that off my chest I feel a bit better. One bit of good news I received recently concerned the new unit we supply with 7kg pigs from our outdoor unit. The first of the slaughter pigs averaged over 70kg deadweight at 127 days, with the heaviest being considerably higher. This must highlight the potential that can be realised with clean buildings.

There is no doubt that lessons can be learned from the success of the chicken industry where an all in all out policy is standard practice.

The indoor unit is benefiting from the new service shed, which has released some extra fattening space around the unit that used to house gilts. Stocking density is certainly an important factor in growth rates but, unfortunately we sometimes let it slip our minds.

It is too early to give figures for conception with our new service regime, but the sows look very happy and the staff think its positively brilliant – this may have something to do with the fact that they had a lot of input into the design of the layout.n

With pig prices falling to less than £1/kg, Dennis Bridgeford is convinced that a nice joint of ham would make a better Christmas dinner than turkey!

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Dennis Bridgeford

14 November 1997

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms 50ha (125 acres) at Petley Farm in

Easter Ross, about 40 miles north of Inverness. The farm

comprises of a 480-sow indoor unit producing 95kg pigs for

one outlet and 85kg pigs for a more local abattoir. A further

320 sows are run outdoors, with progeny sold at 7kg. The

land not used for pigs grows spring barley

WHAT a start to the winter – you just would not believe how fantastic the weather has been.

Long periods of sunshine during the day as well as mild evenings. Paddocks on the outdoor unit are still nice and dry and the sows look extremely content. Staff have been busy preparing for the short winter days; it does not get light until after 9am and by 3.30 in the afternoon you need lights on the tractors.

We have now put five weeks weaning through the new service shed, and it is working a treat to date. We have only one sow that has not been served within seven days after weaning. The boars have also settled in well to the deep bedded straw. It would appear they appreciate the extra grip on the floor, and it has also cut out the drudge of cleaning out boars every other day.

One failure has been the water system, I really should have known better. We installed one that relied on gravity and a small trough up the middle of the pens, but we just cant get it to work properly. It chocks up with debris and the odd sow has taken a liking to washing her face in the trough, with the result that there is water everywhere. We have decided to abandon it and move on to nipples force fed above the water troughs.

All through the summer our losses in the farrowing houses have been at a reasonable level, but for some reason we always seem to see more in October. This year has been no exception, numbers born have also dipped. The noticeable point is that the quality of pig born is not that good. We really should not keep sows over seven parities but you always think, lets go for one more. The other more worrying concern is that the new line of gilt we are using seems to be variable in suckling ability. This dam line contains a percentage of Duroc. The breeding company is suggesting we served them too young.

That argument may hold water for the first few served. From now on we are going to integrate them into the herd as soon as they come out of quarantine and not serve them for at least 10 weeks after delivery. I note by their dates of birth that they were pushed hard as growing animals, which shows their potential but does not improve their breeding ability and makes them more susceptible to leg trouble.

The wheat we bought at harvest time on the futures market looks as though it is going to be on the expensive side when you look at the national figures. Quality in Scotland this year has been at best disappointing, but in most cases terrible. The arable sector obviously began to get cold feet with costs when they saw that prices were not going to be high. The big difficulty we have is securing quality wheat before the distilling industry buys it all. &#42

Sow paddocks are still dry and sows are content, says Dennis Bridgeford.

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Dennis Bridgeford

17 October 1997

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) at Petley

Farm in Easter Ross, about

40 miles north of Inverness.

The farm comprises of a 480-

sow indoor unit producing

95kg pigs for one outlet and

85kg pigs for a more local

abattoir. A further 320 sows

are run outdoors, with

progeny sold at 7kg. The

land not used for pigs grows

spring barley for use in the

farms mill-and-mix plant.

WE HAVE reached the end of an era. The sow stalls have been emptied for the last time and await the steel cutters to take them out for scrap.

We finished the new service house on time at the end of September, with the first weaning looking very happy without too much bullying between sows. The pens have been designed so we can split between large and small sows. Unfortunately, like all females, this does not stop all the fighting but we will start out this way.

The real proof will be in four months time, when we will see whether it has an effect on numbers born and our farrowing index. They have been good of late and it is with some trepidation that we embark on a new system. But it is really a pointless argument if the purchasing giants demand no stalls, and now I gather its happening earlier than the law states.

One problem we had to decide on was how much extra straw we would require over the year. We normally bale all our straw in big square bales as it makes handling so much easier, though you have the drawback of not being able to store them outside. We have purchased 350 round bales to give us that bit of extra cover. I suppose this is the first real extra cost of coming out of stalls and slats. As we start to serve over the next few months we will keep you informed.

We have been vaccinating for EP since the start of July, and it is very noticeable that the pigs are more even sized in their pens, and they look extremely well with a nice healthy bloom – I keep saying this to myself as the vets bills come in for the vaccine.

I wonder how much it actually costs to produce the product. Can I suggest that now the manufacturers have bombarded me with all the literature that instead of paper they consider some discount?

We have made a slight change with the newly weaned pigs. They normally go straight onto our wet wean system, but we now feed a creep pellet in the flat decks for three days prior to the wet wean. This appears to be stimulating the gut prior to the liquid feed. It is very noticeable that the smaller pigs are really a lot happier and dont get the same post-weaning check. This in turn is allowing us to get most of the pigs on to a home-mixed diet, at a cost of £260/t, 10 days after weaning.n

The EP vaccine is working well, says Dennis Bridgeford, with pigs having a healthy bloom. But he reckons offering a discount would be better than the mountains of literature sent by manufacturers.

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Dennis Bridgeford

22 August 1997

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms 50ha (125 acres) at Petley Farm in Easter Ross, about 40 miles north of Inverness. The farm comprises of a 480-sow indoor unitproducing 95kg pigs for one outlet and 85kg pigs for a more local abattoir. A further 320 sows are run outdoors, with progeny sold at 7kg. The land not used for pigs grows spring barley for use in the farms mill-and-mix plant.

WE have decided to start vaccinating our indoor herd with EP vaccine again.

We tried it once before, but thought the results were not worth the hefty costs. I suspect the truth was we did not give the vaccine a chance to get on top of the problem. This time we will give it at least six months before we complain about the costs involved.

The new service shed is coming on well, and we would hope to have pigs in by the first week of September. In a way I am disappointed to see the end of our existing service area as it has worked really well.

I note that one of the supermarket chains is starting to move the goalposts already regarding sow stalls by saying that the product sold under their own label will be derived from stall-free herds, but the pigmeat they import will not have to meet the same high criteria.

Supermarkets are not top of my Christmas card list at the moment. We have supplied one of the big players in the supermarket game, who felt that freshness was all important, through our local abattoir for years. It has now decided to central buy, so that concludes that piece of business.

The outdoor unit seems to be coming through the summer well, and we have now gone round a full cycle of weaning every second week. It does not appear to have been detrimental to conception, but it is a bit early to compare numbers born. However, there has been a big saving on the cost of transport.

Over the years we have not spent any real money on the crop side of our business, the main reason being that in terms of turnover it is small compared with the pig operation.

The drier is a tray type, handling 25t a batch. On a good day, with little sleep, you could squeeze 100t a day out of it. The thought of barley at £65/t and the chance that the maltsters might be very choosy convinced me that it was time to invest in updating our drying capacity.

We have bought an auger-type system that fits on to the top of the tray, continually turning the grain as it is being blown with hot air. Tray-type driers have always suffered the problem that the bottom is ready before the top, giving an uneven sample.

We decided not to buy any winter barley, as we find that pig performance dips considerably with the variable quality of the crop, so we await the first of the spring batch to try the new equipment out. &#42

Dennis Bridgeford is to vaccinate his indoor herd against enzootic pneumonia. This has been done once before, but costs were previously thought to be too expensive.

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Dennis Bridgeford

25 July 1997

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms 50ha (125 acres) at Petley Farm in Easter Ross, about 40 miles north of Inverness. The farm comprises of a 480-sow indoor unitproducing 95kg pigs for one outlet and 85kg pigs for a local abattoir. A further 320 sows are run outdoors, with progeny sold at 7kg. Land not used for pigs grows spring barley for feeding.

THE event in the farming year that I enjoy more than any is the Royal Highland Show. It goes back to the days when my father and I would go off for almost a week showing pigs.

In some ways its sad that those days are no longer with us, but it really brings home to me how far the pig industry has come in the past 25 years. Then, we were concerned that a Landrace boar might have a small black spot on its back, never mind the fact it might have a back fat measurement of 20mm plus.

I also note that an eminent cereal grower has been spouting forth that Scottish Quality Cereals is doing a disservice to the arable sector. As a person who uses considerable tonnages of grain a year I would hope to be able, within the next year, to buy only grain that meets the SQC criteria.

I buy more than 2000t of grain, and if there is one thing that gets me on my high horse, it is a load of grain that has part of a concrete floor and a piece of a combine in it; we spend too much time and money repairing damaged augers. Grain is a food and should be treated as such.

One of the best management decisions we made two years ago was to change from Large White boars to terminal sire boars. The problem with terminal sires used to be the fact that they were susceptible to stress problems.

We now purchase stress free boars and the improvement in carcass confirmation has been tremendous, plus the added benefit of higher killing out percentage and improved libido.

We try to weigh all lorry loads of pigs as they leave the farm, but its quite concerning to see the range of killing-out percentage between abattoirs. The calculation is made more difficult with the two different specs – Euro and UK. It is obvious that the price differential needs to be quite substantial for Euro dress to be equal to UK dress.n

Dennis Bridgeford would like to buy only cereals which meet Scottish Quality Cereals standards. This is in a bid to cut down the number of foreign bodies in grain damaging augers on the farm.

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Dennis Bridgeford

4 April 1997

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms 50ha (125 acres) at Petley Farm in Easter Ross, about 40 miles north of Inverness. The farm comprises of a 480-sow indoor unit further 320 sows are run outdoors, with progeny sold at 7kg. The land not used for pigs grows spring barley for use in the farms mill-and-mix plant.

I HAVE never been totally happy with our weaning service performance in the indoor unit.

We were managing to get most of the sows re-served quickly but every now and then we would be left with two or three hanging back each week. Not only does that take up space in our serving accommodation but it soon starts to affect the service index.

The old system was to wean on a Thursday and start checking for oestrus on the Monday. We now wean on a Wednesday, giving the sow her full lactating ration in the morning and physically checking the sows for heat and running a boar through to stimulate them over the weekend ready for serving on the Monday morning.

We are managing to find the odd sow over the weekend, but the big advantage is that we are getting really strong heats on the Monday morning. To date we have no sows hanging back. But there is always one down side and, as the sows are due to farrow earlier in the week, it puts more pressure on farrowing accommodation.

The other tip I picked up on a recent trip to Denmark was how to improve hygiene in the farrowing rooms. We always power wash between batches and, on the whole, that works reasonably well. Now we still power wash but when the nursery pens are dry we liberally sprinkle a dry disinfectant.

That seems to tidy up any stubborn infections, and the initial response was quite dramatic. The first batch through weaned over 11 pigs a litter, and they looked tremendous.

Last years expensive capital project was to update our weaning accommodation. The walls were showing signs of age, the pen divisions were getting patchy and the feeders were past their sell-by date. We decided to install a Hampshire wet wean system at the same time as the refurbishment.

I can say with conviction that the initial effect on performance was absolutely staggering. We were getting newly weaned pigs growing on the first week of weaning at almost 300g a day. It was brilliant.

But, like all good things, it came to an abrupt halt. Almost overnight the pigs would not eat. They were lethargic and growth slowed to zero. To cut a long story short, we went back to basics, washed the tanks and pipes with dairy chemical, changed the feed type and introduced secondary feeders for a few days to stimulate the pigs, and we are off again. &#42

Several new tips picked up on a recent trip to Denmark are helping improve efficiency in Dennis Bridgefords indoor unit.

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Dennis Bridgeford

7 March 1997

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms 50ha (125 acres) at Petley Farm in Easter Ross, about 40 miles north of Inverness. The farm comprises of a 480-sow indoor unit producing finished pigs and a further 320 sows are run outdoors, with progeny sold at 7kg.

JANUARY was the driest for years, with only 18mm rain. I must admit it has made the outdoor pig business a bit easier. Straw usage is back compared with last year and life generally has been a bit easier for the staff. However, nature has a great way of levelling things out – February has been wet and windy, but there has been no snow.

We have been in outdoor production since 1993 and have gone through quite a learning curve. We tried to start on a very low cost operation, but soon discovered that low cost didnt last, and landed up with high repair bills. The farrowing huts were a classic example. We made the A-frame type ourselves without problems, using compressed-type sheeting, but this absorbed water and wasnt strong enough. Now we use 18mm sheeting plywood which is stronger and the huts are warmer.

But there is always one part of a unit you are not happy with. We are producing strong healthy pigs that are weighing well off the field, averaging 8.5kg at an average weaning age of 22 days. In the 12 months to January this year we had a farrowing index of 2.39 which is quite acceptable. Our problem seems to lie with total number born being 10.58 and selling 22 pigs a sow a year. I would like to increase the number born to 11, and the number sold a sow a year to 23.

Average feed usage stands at 1.2t a sow a year, but we have increased the level of feed to in-pig gilts, who are definitely on the lean side. There is no doubt that if they get a check at this stage it causes damage to later parities. We have also introduced a specific diet for maiden gilts pre-service.

I managed to get a couple of days away from the farm to visit Agrimek in Denmark. We also managed to fit in a couple of farm visits. One unit in particular gave us plenty to think about. It had 750 sows on stalls and slats, no straw, producing 25 pigs a sow a year to 30kg and employing a staff of three.

Their attitude is that the buyers first priority is price, and the stalls appear to be of little interest to them. Are we going to allow Danish pigmeat to be imported regardless of our legislation?n

Outdoor pigs arent a cheap option, says Dennis Bridgeford. Now the A-frame huts are made using stronger sheeting which is also warmer.

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