Farmer Focus: Covid close shave puts pressure on staff

We had a close call with Covid a couple of weeks ago.

Jack, who helps us at weekends and school holidays, was told to self-isolate and have a test, which proved positive, so his father, who is a senior stockman, also had to self-isolate.

We had one man on holiday so we were two men down and it was a weaning week, with 1,320 piglets to wean, sort by size and vaccinate.

I had forgotten how physically hard it was, as when we are fully staffed I normally manage to find other things to do on weaning day.

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As Jack and his dad had been at work the day before his test we were on tenterhooks until we had our tests, which thankfully proved negative.

At least the social distancing rules we put in place at the beginning of the pandemic worked.

Jack and his dad had no symptoms of Covid-19 and are now back at school/work. 

I had my Covid vaccination in March (Oxford-AstraZeneca). I did have muscle and joint ache the next day but a couple of paracetamols and an early night and I was fighting fit the following day. 

The pigs are looking really well at the moment. The fertility in the sows is excellent and there are lots of strong, healthy piglets being born.

The growers/finishers are growing really well too. I always find that spring is the easiest time of year on our farm, when the phrase “any fool can be a pig farmer” springs to mind.

Feed prices are continuing to drift down, and pig prices seem to have bottomed out with cull sow prices rising, so I am feeling a lot more positive than I have been of late.

I was looking at some performance figures from the US the other day, which I found quite shocking.

I saw 13% sow mortality and over 20% piglet mortality. Both these figures are nearly four times higher than our own so there is clearly something going wrong over there. Coupled with very high antibiotic usage, it doesn’t make great reading.


David Owers is a Farmer Focus writer in Lincolnshire. Read his biography.