Farmer Focus: Maximise the £250 investment in every gilt

The biggest news from us this month is that, after being selected as a finalist at the National Pig Awards, Alexander & Angell (Farms) were declared winners of the Herd Productivity Award!

We were recognised for our increase in numbers born alive per litter from 13.6 in 2016 to 14.5 in 2017 (I’m pleased to say this is still the case in 2018), and for the increase in numbers weaned per litter from 11.3 in 2016 to 12.4 in 2017. 

This now sits at 12.9 for 2018, which equates to 29.7 weaned per sow per year, up from 28 in 2016. 

The judges were impressed by the improvements in productivity that have come about as a result of switching to a five-week batch system and a review of health management in collaboration with the George Vet Group. 

See also: 8 key tips on improving gilt productivity

The award is testament to the hard work that my team – Andrius, Dave, Simon, Edvin, Phil, Nerijus, Shane and Roger – have put in over the past couple of years to make this happen.

To try and improve our productivity further we signed up to be part of AHDB’s Gilt Watch, earlier this year, along with more than 30 other producers. 

The premise is that herds need to retain more young sows to make significant physical and financial gains.

Costing approximately £250 to rear a gilt, it makes sense to get them past their first and second parity to fulfil their full lifetime potential in order to secure that return on investment.

As a group, we are investigating what makes young sows fail. We are monitoring and benchmarking gilt performance and sharing ideas to try and make improvements.

Finally, we know that we will be able to make further improvements if we can invest in new buildings and, after Philip Hammond announced the new Structures and Buildings Allowance in his autumn budget, things may be looking a little more attractive for the development ideas I have for the farm. 

Let’s hope that the commitment to a free trade area with zero tariffs and quotas comes to fruition with Brexit looming, to provide us with a little more certainty for the future.

Sophie Hope is a Farmer Focus writer from near Cheltenham. Read her biography