Farmer Focus: Rare cold snap sees return to carting water

North Norfolk has a reputation for being open to cold winter winds coming in cruelly off the North Sea. You cannot spend long here before someone tells you there’s nothing between us and the North Pole.

Early December saw nearly two weeks of North Polar air travelling down. No surprise that things got a bit grim.

See also: Photo of the Week: Bull leads his herd through winter frost

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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But it made me realise these winter periods are now quite rare. For several years we have sailed through with only the very occasional day when freezing conditions have hampered us.

This is a blessing for livestock, but I fear the climate will take revenge.

I reckon it’s 12 years since our plumbed water system had to be replaced by manually carted water for all the pigs during a cold snap.

This is gauged from younger staff members and pig industry contacts on Twitter who were experiencing this for the first time.

I’m just glad it was the first two weeks of December, and not the last two.

The issue is the pipework that trails around the farm supplying water to all the paddocks and kennels.

None of it is underground, so it’s very exposed to the compounding frosts, and is relatively small-bore, typically 20mm or 25mm. Our system is nomadic, moving with crop rotations.

The cost of moleing in and later extracting miles of pipe would not be justifiable, and the risk of underground leaks would be too great, as they can go undetected.

All our pigs get their water from black plastic tanks, not steel troughs, and this part of the system stands up well, provided nipples on the tanks get warmth from the sun or from the sows’ mouths.

The tanks can be refilled from a trailed bowser and often the relatively higher temperature of the water going in is enough to clear ice from the tank sides and free off the nipples.

Probably the hardest to keep watered is the area for farrowing pigs, especially for sows in later lactation when water demand is highest.

At this point the sows are individually housed so the advantage of many sows drawing on a single nipple is lost.

We eventually had to give up and just put water on the ground, in the holes we dug as wallows back in May.