Farmer Focus: Talk of ‘no deal’ sows at 2p/kg is worrying

As we enter 2019 there is increasing concern over Brexit uncertainty. Leaving the EU without a deal could be a disaster for the industry, with suggestions that UK exporters may face tariffs while import tariffs could be waived to ensure low food prices.

NPA Chairman Richard Lister highlighted that the tariff on a sow is 45p/kg.  So, when sow slaughterers have been saying that they will be able to pay 2p/kg, rather than 60p/kg today (which isn’t a great deal as it is), it is a worry.

See also: Expert tips for reducing feed waste on your pig farm

On the farm, despite doing well overall with breeding herd productivity in 2018, we have seen some issues with “second litter drop.” 

This syndrome has been presenting itself in ex gilts with slow onset and sub oestrus post-weaning, low farrowing rates and low litter size in the second litter. 

Until our latest quarterly vet visit in December, we viewed this mainly as being a negative energy issue due to excessive workload on gilts during lactation. This is undoubtedly part of the issue due to our relatively large litter sizes. 

To address this, we upped the specification of the lactation ration in autumn and, while we saw stronger heats and reduced returns, we are yet to see the results on litter size. 

We, and the vet, feel that the sows and gilts are a little over condition entering the farrowing house, and this may depress appetite during lactation. 

With the mild winter we have had so far, we have pulled back our winter feeding programme a little in the latter stages of pregnancy and double checked the calibration of the feeders.

We are getting on for halfway through winter and so far have seen no clinical signs of APP (Actinobacillus Pleuropneumonia) since we removed the vaccine, so let’s hope this continues.

Even with worries over falling pig prices, rising feed costs and Brexit, I am sure there will be positives for pig farming this year, and we hope to improve our production and health further. 

I am still investigating expansion and improvement plans for the farm, but I won’t be diving in head first until we know where we stand as an industry a few months down the line.

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