Spains Hall, Willingale, Essex
• Professional approach across whole business
• Impressive business model and planning
• Outstanding production results
• Industry influence
Stuart Bosworth’s professional approach to every aspect of his 270-sow indoor pig business, combined with a willingness to share his ideas with others and champion the cause of the whole industry, marked him out as the winner in this tight contest between three outstanding pig producers.
He donned a pink pig costume for the “Pigs are still worth it” rally in London in March to support “an innovative and intensive, but sustainable British pig industry”. It’s why he writes a regular editorial column in Pig World and hosts and supports vets and students from Cambridge University, a Danish Agricultural College and Writtle College a few miles away.
This commitment and enthusiasm may be the reason, too, that three school leavers who joined him 25, 15 and 11 years ago at Spains Hall in Willingale are still with him. Investment of his time and training in these stockmen has paid off, with a production average of 25 pigs a sow a year.
Pigs have been produced at Spains Hall since 1934 without de-stocking and re-populating. He closed the herd in 2001 following a lucky escape from swine fever and remains free from PMWS, PDNS and PRRS. Strict biosecurity with weekly all-in/all-out cleaning and disinfecting of the farrowing rooms maintains the health status.
He uses detailed records to optimise performance. One example is the link he found between gilt age and condition at service and numbers born alive in first litter and longevity. Based on his own research, he now targets gilt age at service at 250-260 days – knowledge he shares with BPEX and other farmers.
He is continually seeking ways to improve production efficiencies, such as new weaner rescue decks, which he introduced with BPEX grant support. This allows him to take the bigger piglets, once they have fed on colostrum, on to the deck where they move onto solids much more quickly and leave the smaller ones to catch up on the sow. “I believe the concept of ‘artificial rearing’ piglets has the potential to be the most significant advance in pig breeding herd performance since the advent of earlier weaning,” he says.
Following a study trip to Holland, Stuart sourced Damline A1 from a high-health Topigs breeding stud in The Netherlands to further improve the homebred female line. The results so far speak for themselves – 100% conception rate and 13.64 pigs born alive per litter from 28 farrowings.
The pig unit works very effectively within a 270ha (667-acre) arable operation. There is a contra-deal for muck and slurry in return for straw, but home-grown grain is bought back at market prices for inclusion in the pigs’ diet. He works closely with his customer, Cheale Meats at Brentwood: “Price is based on published industry prices, which saves time in haggling and promotes a sensible long-term relationship,” explains Stuart.
Few pig producers can boast a profit with feed prices at such a high, but Stuart has managed to hold production figures at an enviable £140.71p/kg net – evidence of his business planning, attention to detail and innovative approach.
• 270ha arable and pig operations
• 270-sow pig unit
• Three staff and Stuart
• 6,800 pigs sold a year
“All three finalists are outstanding in their field and Alltech is delighted to support their innovation, technical skills and commitment to this challenging sector.”
Ian Leach, regional director
2011 Farmers Weekly Awards