Farmer Focus: Pigs are fine, but staff are coughing

We are nearly halfway through my two least-favourite months of the year – January and February.

Most of January is spent trying to catch up with things that didn’t get done over the Christmas period.

These two months are usually our least productive due to a lack of air movement through our naturally ventilated buildings and a shortage of farrowings due to autumn infertility in the previous year.

I am pleased to report we have not had any autumn infertility problems this year, which has created a problem in itself, as the 10% extra gilts that we served to cover this period are now farrowing.

See also: How pig breeding technology could help cut disease-related costs

So far we have not had any respiratory problems apart from the odd cough in the yards, but what’s going on with us humans?

We seem to be catching cold after cold. Both my wife Lizzy and I have had chest infections, the lads are all coughing and sneezing and we have all had our flu jabs again this year as recommended for piggery staff.

Rugby fever

There is something in February that most of us look forward to – the Six Nations rugby championship. I don’t think I know a pig farmer who doesn’t love their rugby.

I personally think it’s the old adage – work hard and play hard. Even though I am a diehard England fan, I just can’t see Ireland being beaten, though I do have a foot in the Irish camp as my mother is from County Mayo.

Weaner sales

We have just sold 550 weaners straight off the sow, as we do every three weeks. They are the heaviest we have ever sold, averaging 9.38kg a pig. The remaining 650, which are the lighter pigs, average about 7kg and have gone into our weaner accommodation.

In future columns I hope to explain how we have maintained sow condition despite sows rearing 13 piglets a litter and getting the piglets eating solid food while on the sow, which allows them to be weaned without a growth check and without the need for any in-feed antibiotics.


Keeping antibiotics use to a minimum is a key aim for David Owers on the 700-sow indoor closed unit he manages in Lincolnshire. He sells half of the progeny as 8kg weaned pigs and rears the rest to bacon weight (105kg). The farm includes horses, cattle, 1,620ha of arable land and an AD unit.