Farmer Focus: Rain is a bump in the road for pig paddocks

I take a quick look over my shoulder at what’s happened in the past 12 months and boldly take a big step forward into the next 12 at this time of year.

For many of us, the first footstep of the year was accompanied by a loud squelching noise.

The rainfall we have had recently has surpassed anything I can remember and it’s creating a great deal of problems.

See also: Heavy rain prompts grassland drainage checks

About the author

Rob McGregor
LSB Pigs runs 1,550 sows in two outdoor herds to produce weaners under a contract agreement. Rob manages the operation which fits into a barley and sugar beet rotation on rented land near Fakenham, Norfolk.
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The first item on my to-do list in January 2024 is to construct pig paddocks to accommodate 1,200 of our 1,500 sows.

That’s quite an undertaking, even when everything goes in my favour, but when the fields are so saturated that I’m not confident they will even support the fencing team’s lightweight tractor, the enormity of the challenge ahead becomes very real.

Back in August, we took control of three new fields and it’s not the first time we have had a weather-related bump in the road.

The total area is about 52ha (128 acres), which was drilled with a specialist pig paddock grass mix.

Two of the fields had previously grown barley crops, but the third was oilseed rape, so the drilling of that one was delayed while we took care of the volunteer rape that germinated, to prevent it smothering out the young grass growth.

The first two fields established well. The third, late-drilled field didn’t grow quite as well, and then the exceptionally hot September heatwave hit us and frazzled the seedlings for a week.

The only areas that survived the heat were a few shaded locations and the patches of slightly heavier soil.

At best, that amounts to about 35% of the field having good grass cover (a massive dent in our pride). We did attempt to redrill the bare patches, but it was too late in the autumn by then.

Today I have been out walking the fields, doing some calculations, and getting a feel for where things will fit.

Next week, fingers crossed, the young guy who knocks in the posts for us will be able to make a start.

He’s been in touch saying he might be able to hire some tracks for his machine.

Is he serious, or just trying to make me laugh?