Farmer Focus: Worst growth results since batch system change

I mentioned in August’s column that we were seeing a drop-off in performance across the farm as a result of the heat. 

I wasn’t wrong when I suspected that we would see the effect of this for a few months as these batches reached their slaughter dates. 

The nature of the five-week batch system means we have to slaughter one in every four batches a week early; at 21 weeks of age as opposed to 22 weeks.

September’s batch was one of these, so not only did we lose a week’s worth of growth due to the system, we were also hit hard on growth, yielding our poorest results since we started batching. 

See also: 5 steps to reduce antibiotics use in your pig herd

Our bacon pigs weighed in at only 101kg liveweight at 149 days old compared with our last 21-week averages of 104.4kg, 103.9kg and 107.2kg.

Planning progress

We are making some headway with our plans for the pig farm after having meetings with further building suppliers and our environmental consultant about environmental permitting. 

Frustratingly, our pig farm and two of our poultry farms all fall under the same permit, despite being on separate country parish holding numbers.

The total ammonia output across the three sites has to fall below the permitted level if we want to increase the number of pig places.

Therefore, we have our work cut out looking at techniques such as slurry acidification or air scrubbers to reduce ammonia emissions.

Swine fever fears

There is industry-wide concern over the discovery of African swine fever (ASF) in Belgian wild boar. No ASF has been found in domestic pigs after screening on 60 farms in the region. 

Thirteen non-EU countries have banned imports of pork products from Belgium, but EU countries are adopting a regionalised approach to trade. 

Pig keepers and the public must ensure pigs and feral boar are not fed catering waste, kitchen scraps or pork products as it is illegal to do so – including BBQ and picnic leftovers.

All pig keepers should ensure visitors have recently visited affected regions and take great care in making sure they are not contaminated.

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