I had a good trip to the Pig and Poultry Fair in Stoneleigh, with some great new equipment on show.
It seemed to be busier than two years ago and LED lighting, biomass boilers and freedom farrowing systems were prominent on many stands. It’s interesting to see the changes a couple of years bring. I am definitely interested in LED lighting and have already invested in a biomass boiler, but freedom farrowing is something I feel will present a lot of management challenges, particularly with pre-weaning mortality.
I talked to a producer who had no method of confining sows at farrowing and he told me they were struggling to keep mortality at respectable levels. A method of confining problem sows seems to be a must, as the welfare of the piglets must also be taken into consideration.
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The Balmoral Show was also a great success this year with good weather and record crowds. The new venue at the Maze is proving to be a good move. My children really loved all the animals and all had a great family day out.
I have started to use Altrenogest to synchronise oestrous in gilts. The idea is to bring gilts into heat at the same time as sows and in the correct numbers to replace culls, therefore ensuring a steady production flow. This has many benefits as bottlenecks are a problem on most farms, causing overstocking at certain times. Some producers are seeing good improvements. Managing gilts has always been a difficult challenge on my farm. Perhaps this regime will help to improve this troubled area.
Andrew McCrea farms a 740-sow birth-to-bacon business and 150 beef cattle on 37ha. He is a DARD Focus Farmer and was 2010 Farmers Weekly Pig Farmer of the Year.