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Richard Longthorp

23 August 2002

Richard Longthorp

Richard Longthorp farms

720ha (1800 acres)

near Howden, East Yorks.

As well as arable, the

farm has 2500 outdoor

breeding sows with progeny

taken through to bacon. He

is also chairman of the

National Pig Association

OUR new gilts arrived in the first week of August and I am sure Emma, our manager, will be pleased to have some pigs to work with at last instead of a pressure washer and knapsack sprayer.

But receiving 945 gilts in one hit meant a long day, with the team working until 9.30pm. Having made the decision to go down the batch farrowing route, we then had to decide how best to synchronise heats of the different batches.

The choice was between using Regumate (altrenogest), at a not insignificant cost and staff input to ensure correct dosage and intake, or trying to achieve synchronisation through nutritional means. After much discussion, with very polarised viewpoints, we opted for the nutritional route, but with the ability to use Regumate to help us out in problematic situations.

We held our annual staff night out at the end of July and, much to the chagrin of the pig lads, the arable team won the bowling competition yet again. The usual good night was had by all, but made even more satisfying this year by the appearance of our longest serving member of staff, Yogi, who was recently discharged from hospital after major surgery.

With prices in apparent free fall, confusion reigns again. Multiples and processors tell us there is no demand, yet local butchers are still buying the same number of pigs as some weeks ago. Is it only the customers of multiple retailers that head off to Spain for the summer?

The sooner we can get some transparency in the supply chain the better. The apparent lack of demand for pigmeat is of big concern to the whole industry. If people will not buy pork at current prices, when will they?

Last, I must mention the weather. Having only received 225mm (9in) of rain during the first six months of 2002, we have already received 125mm (5in) in the first five weeks of the second half year. Not good for outdoor pigkeeping, even in summer. &#42

Richard Longthorp hopes to synchronise farrowing of batches of replacements using nutritional rather than pharmaceutical means.

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Richard Longthorp

24 July 2002

Richard Longthorp

Richard Longthorp farms

720ha (1800 acres)

near Howden, East Yorks.

As well as arable, the

farm has 2500 outdoor

breeding sows with progeny

taken through to bacon. He

is also chairman of the

National Pig Association

HAVING decided to restock one of our breeding units and chosen genetics, the next stage was to find a location.

We do not want to be carrying out the restock anywhere near our existing production facilities, or any other for that matter. This will give us the best chance of starting and continuing for a reasonable period of time with a clean herd.

We hope to get the customary honeymoon period experienced with any restock and by the time this is over, wish to be significantly further down the line in our ability to manage porcine multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS).

Thankfully, a location has now been determined. But in the quest for isolation, this is some distance away from base. This will add some cost, which will hopefully be rapidly recouped as the anticipated reduction in cost of production occurs.

The war against PMWS continues and we keep seeing glimmers of hope. Some months ago we vaccinated two herds against porcine reproductive respiratory disease (PRRS) in a bid to stabilise the PRRS status across those two herds. Latest blood samples indicate this has been successful and, coincidental or otherwise, post weaning mortality rates have dropped.

This is not an endorsement of the vaccination programme as a means of controlling PMWS, simply an observation. We have all been down that route too many times in the past. The last time I started to become remotely optimistic about our ability to win the PMWS war, I was given a painful reminder that this conflict will be a prolonged campaign with no quick fixes.

It was somewhat reminiscent of the pressure of a penalty shoot out as we reached the end of our bonus period for slaughter pigs under our new contract. We knew it was going to be close because we had been having difficulties getting the nutrition right on pigs from one of our breeding units. But eventually we scraped home and qualified for the bonus which is related to level delivery, weight range and P2 and which, when we do our job right, can be worth more than £1/pig. &#42

Richard Longthorp is hopeful that restocking on a new unit will give breathing space to improve PMWS control.

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Richard Longthorp

28 June 2002

Richard Longthorp

Richard Longthorp farms

720ha (1800 acres)

near Howden, East Yorks.

As well as arable, the

farm has 2500 outdoor

breeding sows with progeny

taken through to bacon. He

is also chairman of the

National Pig Association

SEVERAL people managed to pick up the deliberate error in last months report when I stated the spread of weights in our slaughter pigs was far greater pre-PMWS than post-PMWS.

Actually, it is quite the reverse, with weights showing significantly more variance post-PMWS and bringing the resultant compromises on carcass quality and uniformity.

We have now taken the decision on which genetics company to employ for the duration of our slaughter pig supply contract, opting for JSR. The final decision was based on many factors, but ultimately the ability of the company to be able to respond to and reflect our future approach. This is a total interdependence of all those we supply and who supply us. Grand intentions I am sure, but if we cannot achieve that then I fear our future in pig production will not be a long one.

Having made the decision on the breeding stock we are going to use, other equally important decisions must be made, such as whether to batch farrow. The more we think about it, the more potential advantages there seem to be. These include teams clearly focused on one key operation a week, even batches going through finishing yards and the ability to rest our AI service tent during non-serving weeks.

But the main reason favouring change, is that batch farrowing would assist in controlling PMWS. Most management decisions on the units will have to have PMWS as priority number one for the foreseeable future.

The recent revelation in the Press that crime is increasing will come as no surprise to those of us who operate in rural Britain. In a period of two weeks, we were broken into on the arable farm five times. Thankfully the security system we installed more than five years ago proved its worth with nothing being stolen.

But we were less fortunate on one of the outdoor breeding units where we had a 110HP Case Maxxum tractor stolen. A few days later, a straw stack was set alight by some kids. The fire was potentially the most concerning, with the possibility of personal injury or it spreading into rapidly ripening barley crops and dead grass in the pig paddocks. &#42

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Richard Longthorp

3 May 2002

Richard Longthorp

Richard Longthorp farms

720ha (1800 acres)

near Howden, East Yorks.

As well as arable, the

farm has 2500 outdoor

breeding sows with progeny

taken through to bacon. He

is also chairman of the

National Pig Association

WHAT a spring for outdoor pig production. It is now Apr 24 and we have only recorded 101mm (4in) of rain this year to date.

But all has not been as well as the rainfall may suggest, for while days have been warm and dry, many nights have been bitterly cold. This has led to an upsurge in respiratory problems in growing pigs and higher mortality in farrowing huts. Such huge variations in temperature make managing outdoor accommodation more art than science.

Due to F&M, we were unable to hold our contract finishing yard visits and group meetings during 2001. So it was with pleasure that Diana, myself and Andrew, our contract finishing manager, set off on a bright and early morning to look round more than half our sites.

It was really uplifting to meet with those people responsible for growing most of our pigs on and discuss ways of making further improvements. I am looking forward to our group meeting.

At the meeting we will have new carcass management software demonstrated and hear how, through genetics and nutrition, we can work to meet the ever more exacting standards demanded of us.

Our feed is purchased through until the end of August, but I have asked our suppliers to keep their eye on the forward commodity markets and advise accordingly. We need to ensure price and quality are optimal.

We are currently undergoing an insurance risk review of all our units in the hope that if we can show that our risk is low, we may see some reduction in premium – or was that another pig flying past the office window?

It was a privilege recently to be asked to speak to a Ladies in Pigs meeting, but saddening to hear that they, as with many organisations I guess, are struggling for not only members but also funds.

No doubt several of our staff will be travelling to the Pig and Poultry Fair, but two of our young men in particular will be travelling with hopes and aspirations, as they have entered for the Agskills trainee of the year. We are keeping our fingers crossed for Sean King and Richard Shirley. &#42

Its been fantastic weather for outdoor pig production, but cold nights have led to some respiratory problems, says Richard Longthorp.

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