27 March 1998

High welfare system secures BOCMtitle for second year

By Emma Penny

SELLING 23.52 pigs a productive sow won Somersets Cannington College the BOCM Pauls agricultural college pig herd title for the second year running, with a better performance than last year.

The unit, which keeps 130 NPD Manor Meishan sows, finishes pigs at 95kg in a £280,000 high welfare unit built only three years ago.

Unit manager, Keith Woollerson, and assistant, David Jones, keep sows in deep straw yards with feed dispensed by dump feeders into the straw. Despite adequate body condition, Mr Woollerson says there are too many returns to service in first and second parity sows, but separating younger and older sows should help address concern.

The aim is to farrow six sows a week. Sows are hand fed using the Stotfold system to allow lactation to be controlled and milk output boosted, and about 70 piglets a week are weaned at 26 days or 9kg.

The weeks weaners are moved to a straw yard which is divided into two sections. Larger weaners are ad lib dry fed, while the smaller pigs are wet/dry fed from a Lean Machine to help increase feed intake. After about four weeks the division is removed, with the group remaining in the yard until they reach 35kg – usually at about 12 weeks old.

At that time, pigs are weighed, split into groups of 20 and moved to the finishing house. A two-feed finishing system is used, with a high density diet fed from 35-55kg to maximise lean gain, then a lower density ration from 55-95kg to ensure rapid lean deposition and rapid finishing.

Cannington farms director, Steve Bryant, says the high levels of production prove that the high welfare system is sustainable. "This shows that producers should not be afraid to move away from traditional methods and should embrace new welfare codes when they come in."

Runners-up in the competition were De Montfort Universitys LCAH Farms, which keeps 100 outdoor sows and 100 indoor sows, producing 22.31 pigs sold a sow a year, and Plumpton College, Lewes, Sussex, with 100 cross-bred sows producing 21.61 pigs sold a sow a year. &#42

Producing 23.52 pigs sold a sow a year is proof that high welfare systems are sustainable, says Cannington College farms director, Steve Bryant.