Farmer Focus: Doing our bit to keep staff on board

We’ve just had a 16-year-old boy stay with us as he wants to be a vet.

He is trying to gain as much experience before he has to apply for different universities.

I think it was a shock for him as he had never been on a farm before.

However, he got stuck in and we made sure he saw the indoor breeding herd, outdoor herd and also a number of our third-party yards.

See also: Read more from our Livestock Farmer Focus writers

My sister has a lot of vet students over the summer (who live with her) to work on the breeding units and we really do get a mixture.

We have ones we would quite happily have back to ones that are just rude and needy. Yet we keep having them as we need to try and encourage vets into the pig industry.

My husband is a vet and we have just been back to Glasgow to see the vet school. We were shocked to hear the students no longer did 24-hour shifts like he had to do.

The students kicked up a fuss and so now if they do any out of hours they are given the following day off. Is it any surprise we (and vets) struggle to get younger people to put the hours in if they are not made to do it at university?  

Time is certainly changing and I think we are only just seeing the start of it. But if you have good staff it’s definitely worth giving that extra bit to keep them, after all you’re only as good as the team around you.

Back on the pigs and the weather is changing, which can often cause various outbreaks, which can hit hard and fast in the weaners.

We build kennels and train them to go in them at night, which works really well.

However, if the temperature fluctuates a lot between night and day we can still see problems, which if it hits it can kill rapidly so it’s vital any signs are picked up quickly.

Making sure pigs get enough light is also critical at this time of year. The breeding sows need 16 hours of light and so making sure all lights and timers are working is key.

Pigs don’t naturally breed all year so we have to try and fool them a little.

Also as it gets colder we have to make sure they have plenty of straw to bury themselves in to keep warm.

Some mornings we can go into the yards and it doesn’t look like we have any pigs as they are all tucked up in bed under the cosy straw. 

Kate Morgan and family farm 1,700 sows indoors in East Yorkshire and 1,200 outdoors in North Yorkshire, taking all the progeny through to slaughter. 2012 Nuffield Scholar.