Farmer Focus: Finished pig weights hit top spec

The Turco/Woodmans wood pellet boiler has now been installed on my pig unit and the heat meter is clocking up the megawatts of hot water produced faster than I can believe. It’s no wonder my oil bill was so high.

My Renewable Heat Incentive scheme application form is now ready to submit online, so I can claim some financial reward for my investment.

As with every new process, the application was difficult to understand and required some assistance. If you are like me, someone who loses their user name and password easily, writing these down is advisable. Also, if you don’t activate your account after registering the login details won’t work, as I found out to my extreme frustration.

We have now installed a 90mm centreless auger, which has eased the burden of filling the hopper four times a day. So far the whole heating system is working really well, with only minor teething problems, and I am surprised how little ash there is to clean out.

As I have mentioned before, the number of live piglets born per litter has been rising steadily on my unit. However, numbers weaned have not been rising at the same rate. I am about to try feeding supplementary milk in the farrowing pens from birth to see if this can reduce pre-weaning mortalities.

Grading (P2 measurement) for my finished pigs is perhaps the best it has ever been and it is not uncommon to have more than 90% of pigs hitting top spec. I even had one load of 180 pigs all achieving the grading and weight requirements for top price.

This is something I have never managed to do before. I put much of this down to the Danish Duroc terminal sire AI we have been using for the past two years. Of course, there is a big management input involved too.

At this stage of the year, slurry storage is really tight and we have had to transfer some slurry from our tanks to other stores. The wet weather – it was officially the wettest January since records began – will mean it will be some time before slurry can possibly be spread on land.

Apart from slurry spreading being held back, the wet weather doesn’t affect me anywhere near as much as some farmers. Another reason I’m thankful I am a pig farmer.

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.

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