For the past few months it has been an ongoing struggle to source more land for our pigs.
When we first set up with pigs in the 1980s we kept the first herd of 300 sows on our own farm, but it soon became apparent that it wasn’t the best land to have pigs on – too heavy. So from then we have always rented. But it has become increasingly difficult to find the free draining, sandy land that we need for the job.
And the challenges don’t stop with the soil type. There’s obviously biosecurity risks that come into play too. We had found a spot that we thought was a goer, but then discovered there was another pig farm in close proximity. It is not ideal when you don’t know what health status the pigs are and have no control over it.
And then we found another place that looked pretty ideal, but there was a landfill site near it – household waste teamed with birds that spread disease would be a potential timebomb. And with the ongoing risk of swine dysentery in the UK, extra-virulent strains of porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus, which has now spread from China to the US and Canada, and African swine fever, which has spread from Russia into the EU, biosecurity is not something we can afford to negotiate.
People are always flummoxed by how spread out our pig farms are, but we literally have to grab land where we can take it, and pay a pretty eye-watering price for it, too. I’m surprised we haven’t had more takers among landowners, who after all can sit back, watch the money come in while our animals fertilise their soil. But having had no luck for the past few months, we have come to the realisation that we may have to alter our plans and come up with some sort of hybrid system – just what that might look like we do not know yet, but if we want to expand then we are fast running out of options.
Anna Longthorp runs Anna’s Happy Trotters, a pork wholesale business supplying butchers, restaurants and farm shops with free-range pork from her family’s 2,100 breeding sows
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