Farmer Focus: Drought has left second-rate straw

Another problem we are finding as a direct result of the summer’s heatwave is straw quality.

Just before harvest it was very noticeable that the barley straw was very pale this year. It was also noticeable that the wheat straw had a pinkish tinge to it.

I use 800 mini hestons of barley straw for the sows on the breeding unit and another 800-maxi hestons of barley/wheat for the finishing yards.

The straw was baled and stored in barns in ideal conditions and we are now just starting to use it for bedding up the pigs.

See also: Expert tips on reducing heat stress in pigs

The texture of the straw seems very harsh and it doesn’t break up as it usually does when the pigs interact with it. It also seems less absorbent than usual.

Probably 95%-plus of the world’s pig producers are unaware of the extra cost and work involved in keeping pigs on straw as we do in the UK, as most pigs in the world are kept on slats.

On a couple of occasions this year, when our mill man has been on holiday, we have used a mobile mill-and-mix company to make our pig feed for us. We use about 65t/week.

I have to say the quality of service and the quality of the mixed food is first class. They do this in one day as opposed to the week it takes us to make the same amount.

Our mill man has been with us for more than 40 years and is well past retirement age but he wants to keep working for as long as he can, which we are happy for him to do.

Likewise, the mill plant is also more than 40 years old and has not cost a huge amount over that time other than routine maintenance so mobile mill-and-mixing could be a good option for the future.

Pig prices seem to be continuing their steady decline but at least in the past couple of weeks feed prices have eased a little too.

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