Charlie Thompson, Bridge House Farm, Long Buckby, Northamptonshire
It is fair to say Bridge House Farm is a global leader when it comes to the use of technology on pig units.
Not only is it one of the first farms to use EID and ultra-high frequency (UHF) tags, it is also using a feed system that individually feeds pigs in pens depending on their sex and size.
Charlie Thomson is the driving force behind the adoption of technology, working with industry leaders to help design a system that means he can record everything from individual birthweights and litter performance to weaning weights, intramuscular fat and conformation traits.
- Nucleus breeding unit with 900 sows
- Every pig weighed at birth, EID tagged, and performance recorded throughout its life
- Breeding stock – boars and gilts – sold around the UK, Europe and further afield including China
- Pigs not sold for breeding are finished at 120kg
- Contract farming 1,000ha of arable
As a purebred herd supplying breeding stock for Genesus Genetics, Charlie is breeding Yorkshire pigs for the damline and Durocs for the sireline.
This makes accurate data vital, with all the information shared with Genesus Genetics, so continual genetic improvements can be made.
EID technology and bulk reading of pigs has made life so much easier for staff, and data capture more accurate – especially useful as Charlie has a growing export demand for his pigs in China.
Using UHF tags allows pigs to be read in batches and from a distance, and the installation of fixed EID readers in the corridors means pig/group movements can be tracked between each stage of production.
But the technology does not stop there. has Charlie also invested in a phase feeding system which allows a tailored diet for each pen of pigs.
Pigs are fed on a curve, depending on their sex and breed due to their nutritional differences.
But it is not just the technology that is helping this unit to fly.
The attention to detail across the team is second to none and the fact they are running an indoor intensive unit with pigs kept with entire tails – and little tail biting – is a testament to their hard work.
They are providing a whole range of environmental enrichment, from bowling balls to rope, wood and plastic, which are rotated daily.
If there are any signs a pig may be attempting to tail bite it is removed immediately from the pen and placed in with Durocs.
Charlie explains: “Tail biting is very multi-factorial. However, we rarely see any problems in the Duroc pigs because they are so docile. So, if we see any tail biting in the Yorkshires, we remove the individual and place them in a pen with the Durocs and it calms them down and usually stops. It’s like they teach them a lesson.”
And it is no wonder the staff are so committed to this unit – with facilities many could only dream of.
Significant investment in 2011 was made in a new staff room and separate male and female showering and changing facilities.
Development at Bridge House Farm has been made with biosecurity in mind.
Charlie, who is also a qualified vet, says it has been built like a castle, with an external fence/wall running the entire perimeter and no delivery drivers allowed on to the unit.
The environment is something Charlie is looking at closely to future-proof the farm.
In addition to the solar panels he has installed he is looking at acidifying slurry to make better use of it on the arable unit.
- A leader in terms of using technology for data capture and fine-tuning his system
- Clearly demonstrating that high welfare can be achieved in an indoor slatted system, with astute attention to detail and excellent use of enrichment
- Good staff management – use of shift-based working hours
- Always looking ahead to future-proof his business.
Word from our independent judge
“Charlie is an impressive pig producer who is innovative, brave, willing to try new things and has great enthusiasm and drive to further the genetics and his business. He is an advocate for showing high welfare in intensive slatted systems.”
Zoe Davis, NPA
Other finalists were:
- Stephen and Karen Thompson
Povey Farm, Sheffield, Derbyshire
- Colin Stone
Tite Partners, Newmans Farm, Sturminster Newton, Devon
The Farmers Weekly 2020 Pig Farmer of the Year is sponsored by NSF
NSF International work with the food industry to create consumer confidence from farm to food.
We work with farmers to help them demonstrate the quality of what they produce. Farm assurance covers animal welfare, food safety, traceability and provenance and environmental protection so consumers can be confident the food they eat is safe and responsibility produced.