Farmer Focus: Wildlife is now on our priority list

I’ve just got home from the Pigs Tomorrow conference.

On day one, speakers from around the world talked about the global picture, including our post-Brexit prospects and the international marketplace.

Finding out about the past, present and possible future of pig keeping in places like Russia, China and Canada, was fascinating.

Not surprisingly, African swine fever was hot on the agenda. If any of the 400 delegates present weren’t aware just how serious the situation is around the globe and how important it is that we do everything we can to stay ASF free, well they certainly do now.

Day two was focused on innovation, combining big industry issues with a detailed look at technological advancements.

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Mark Hayward of Dingley Dell Farm was among the speakers. His business produces fabulously tasty pork, which is supplied to butchers and restaurants.

Mark has – for a number of years – worked closely with a leading UK breeding company and uses scanning technology to measure and score intramuscular fat (IMF) levels in his breeding stock.

They then carry out selective breeding based on the IMF scores. The result is the enhanced flavour and taste, which I’ve been lucky enough to sample on a number of occasions and it really is superb.

Mark also talked about the on-farm conservation work he oversees, especially the provision of pollinator habitats.

It’s something we’ve dabbled with here at LSB Norfolk, but when I heard just how important a diverse range of wild pollinating insects is to food production, and also of the declining bee and butterfly diversity that’s occurred, it was clear we could do more.

Primarily habitat loss is caused by intensive cropping and the destruction of traditional meadows.

Managing an outdoor pig business puts me in a position where I can help, so I’m going to increase the area of nectar-rich plants we grow and look at paddock flipping.

Paddock flipping involves resting half the stocked area and giving it time to establish good vegetation before being stocked again.

Hopefully we’ll create a buzz.

Rob manages an outdoor pig operation in north Norfolk.