Farmer Focus: Wet weather leads to herd move rethink

Tough times in November have left us rethinking our approach to future herd moves.

Let me explain. Herd moves are biannual. We started the first half of our move in September, as in previous years.

Without wanting to sound smug, over the years we have become quite skilled at rapidly dismantling our old sites and rebuilding them on new fields, without causing any detrimental effect to the running of the farm.

See also: Feeding pigs silage offers sustainability gains

We have invested in luxuries such as hydraulic post knockers and mechanised wire winds, and we have also worked closely with manufacturers to develop stacking farrowing arks with hinged fenders and frame-linked feeder drinker stations.

Both of these tie two or three pieces of equipment into single, easily handled units.

All was going well, with half our farrowing paddocks and all our dry sows quickly settling in on their established grass fields.

Waiting for grass to establish

But then it all came to a halt for six weeks, because the field destined for our second batch of farrowing paddocks and service radial had only just been drilled with grass following harvest.

We knew we would need to give it as long as possible to establish before the pigs’ arrival.

We started rebuilding again in the first week of November – that’s right, just when it started to properly rain.

I think we had become a little complacent with the ease of building a unit in late summer.

We had also failed to realise how much softer the soil would be after drilling the grass, and just how much we pack down our roadways by driving around the unit before winter.

Basically, we had misjudged how much harder moving would be in a wet month when it gets dark at 5pm, and boy, have we made our lives difficult.

Doing a few extra hours a day when it’s warm and sunny is easy, but it is (understandably) not quite as appealing when we have all been struggling in the mud all day.

It’s gone dark and everything we do now feels like it takes twice as long as it should.

But farming is always a learning process, and it’s going to be well-established grass or no grass for me from now on.

Rob manages an outdoor pig operation in north Norfolk. See his biography.