12 June 1998

Pig housing work all set

WORK is scheduled to start next week on construction of a new straw-based building to house dry sows. Our old stall houses are being converted to cubicle accommodation by farm staff, reducing by half the density of sows housed.

With no spare buildings within the pig unit perimeter fence, we shall make good this deficit as economically as possible. It would be hard to justify anything other than a basic design with pig prices on the floor and no obvious pay-back.

Our original intention of putting dry sows outdoors did not withstand close scrutiny when operating costs, capital and loss of arable gross margins were taken into account.

Best for space

Following advice from Dan Morgan of Signet and PIC UK, we have chosen a building design and feeding system which, although not ideal for dynamic groups, will make best use of available space.

The site is suitable for moving sows in and out of the building, and has access for mucking out. Both water and electrical services are to hand.

Just as important, it will be within our budget price of £25,000. That includes all site preparation, building work, concrete base, dump feeding system and railway sleeper walls. The work is being done by SIMCO of Thurston, Bury St Edmunds.

The 29ft x 80ft building will house between 80 and 90 sows at 29-25sq ft a sow and we have the option of running them in two separate groups if necessary.

Run with boars

We plan to add six to nine sows each week to the yard after service and run them with boars to catch returns and aid implantation. The older, bigger sows will be allocated to the straw yard.

Younger sows and those needing special feeding will go straight to the cubicle houses. Gilts will remain in the service house, as at present.

When sows have finished feeding in the straw yard they will be shut into the lying area to allow daily tractor scraping and the addition of fresh straw. They can be shut into the dunging area when all bedding needs to be removed using a skid-steer to take muck through the end doors.

Rainfall

Spring weather has taken on a peculiar pattern after a mild, dry February. March rainfall was only a little above average with 14 days of no recordable rain.

April was notable for its record rainfall, both high monthly and daily totals. There was only one day when no rain was recorded and the total for the month was 143.2mm (5.6in) – close to the all-time high of 149.7mm (5.9in) which fell during June 1982.

The highest rainfall on any one day, 58.2mm (2.3in), fell on April 9. May was quite the opposite, being both warm and dry with 9.6mm (0.4in) evenly distributed throughout the month.

Just as we were wondering if the drought was settling in, June produced a good soaking. In the first four days we had 31.6mm (1.2in), the bulk falling on June 2 when we had 28.5mm (1.1in) in 24 hours.

The result has been some flat crops. The 20ha (49 acres) of early drilled Drake has been knocked about on the headlands and overlaps as well as in a fertile valley in the centre of the field. Linseed has also been flattened but may recover. The winter barley remains standing but no doubt will succumb if the heavy thundery showers that are forecast hit us again.