Farmer Focus Livestock: Imports encourage disease says Chris Fogden

Pig health is one of the most important factors affecting profitable pig production, so it is good to see the Yorkshire Health programme, which aims to mitigate the effects of disease. I believe (but, probably no true Yorkshireman would ever agree) it evolved from our efforts in East Anglia to eradicate swine dysentery, which, touch wood, is going well.

With that in mind it is mind boggling some people are importing “cheap” weaners from Europe, presumably to make a fast buck. Not even the supposedly well managed health programmes of the breeding companies have managed to keep disease out. In my memory, PRRS and wasting diseases have been imported with breeding stock, so what hope is there of imported commercial weaners not bringing some new strain? It might be legal, but that doesn’t make it right.

Poor herd health is largely what drove my restock, which has proved to be a fantastic investment, with production from gilt litters looking to exceed 24 pigs weaned a sow a year. It is proving a struggle though to get weaning weight up to near my customers preferred 8kg target. But, this should be easier to achieve when we get the bulk of gilt litters out of the way.

I could be accused of having made my unit something of a “retro” system, having returned to practices in vogue 15 years ago in outdoor pig production – abandoning AI and three week batch farrowing and returning to natural mating in dynamic groups and weekly production. But we have moved on a bit, with single farrowing paddocks making piglet quality and farrowing management easier. Also, the radial paddock system makes the handling of dry sows simple and fast. I could also live with the production and profitability that we had 15 years ago.

A further benefit is the modified fridge formerly used to store boar semen at 17C was easily switched down to 2C and is now full of cold beer. Cheers.

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