Farmer Focus: Poultry unit beating pigs on efficiency targets

Farmers and assurance schemes are facing ever-increasing scrutiny from media and activists. To counter this and assure consumers that we are producing safe and traceable food farmed to high standards, Red Tractor is switching to a risk-based approach for inspections.

The type and number of non-conformances will be used to categorise farms according to risk.

Farmers who are not conforming to the standards will face more audits; some of which will be unannounced, focused spot checks. 

If there are no improvements farms will be suspended or withdrawn from the scheme.

The most common non-conformances on pig farms are unlocked dead bins and lack of annual antibiotic use data. Thankfully our audit went very well. 

See also: Q&A: Pig housing – balcony systems explained

The assessor was very complimentary about the farm and the pigs, so hopefully we will maintain our annual routine inspection status.

I’ve also just had to fill in our climate change levy (CCL) data return for energy use and production during the last two years. 

We hold underlying climate change agreements with the Environment Agency for our three poultry sites and the pig farm, which give us a 90% reduction on the CCL for electricity and 65% reduction on other fuels, should we meet our energy-efficiency targets. 

We have met our targets across the poultry business through vast improvements in performance, switching to LED lights and installing solar panels on two farms. 

We are finding it harder to meet our targets on the pig farm. We haven’t seen the same rate of improvement in performance on the pigs as with the broiler breeders.

We already have a 50kWp solar panel roof installation and we are switching over to LED bulbs.

We use next to no diesel on the poultry farms but, by the nature of the scrape-through straw-based system, vehicles and pressure washers are constantly working on the pig farm.

Changing to a fully slatted system would cut diesel use, but electricity use would go up due to the environmental control of buildings.

I’m currently investigating other ways in which we can reduce our energy consumption on the pigs.

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