Farmers Weekly Awards 2022: Pig Farmer of the Year

David Fulton of Carricknakielt Farm, Londonderry is Farmers Weekly’s Pig Farmer of the Year.

The saying “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” is often talked about in agriculture, but for David Fulton it is an ethos engrained in every aspect of his business.

And it is this approach that has led David and his 180-sow unit at Carricknakielt Farm to rank among the top pig producers in the UK.

A switch to Danish genetics six years ago prompted a whole-system overhaul at the birth-to-bacon unit, near Magherafelt, requiring a rethink of everything from breeding to feeding. 

See also: Farmers Weekly Awards 2022: Pig Farmer of the Year finalists

Farm facts

  • 65ha site
  • 180-sow birth-to-bacon unit
  • Finished pigs sold on contract to Northern Ireland’s largest processor
  • Closed herd with all gilt replacements bred on farm
  • Uses Danish genetics
  • 120 head of beef cattle, bought in as stores and finished on farm, and 400 head of Mule cross Texel sheep

At each stage of this transition, David has carefully monitored the knock-on effect of any changes through rigorous benchmarking analysis.

And he has not limited this analysis to his own unit: he also compares his results with other farmers aligned to the same processor, through a retailer-producer steering group – in which he ranks top.

He also uses AHDB finishing and indoor breeding data to monitor his performance.


Armed with knowledge to explain any changes in performance – both positive and negative – has provided a unique opportunity for David to largely perfect his management.

This is reflected in a low mortality rate of 5.86% (post-weaning), an average daily liveweight gain of 847g (wean to finish) and antibiotics usage (over the past 12 months) of just 9.67mg/kg, among other performance figures.

All feed is milled on site, buying in raw materials to tailor diets. While he doubts this is the cheapest option, he says it results in the best performance from the herd.


To complement this precision approach to ration formulation, last year David installed a computerised feeding system in his farrowing houses.

It delivers feed in small doses, feeding to appetite and digestion rhythm, which avoids wastage.

This saw him awarded status as a Technology Demonstration farmer for the pig sector – a scheme led by the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (Cafre). 

David actively seeks to glean knowledge from his peers.

As such, he is part of three development groups (pigs, beef and sheep) and says that these opportunities for knowledge exchange are incredibly valuable.

His role as technology demonstration farmer has seen him welcome fellow farmers onto the unit to encourage the adoption of innovative new technologies.

The future

While labour is an ongoing challenge, David has a clear succession plan in place, which involves bringing his two sons, Daniel and Nathan, into the business.

Both have recently completed courses at Cafre’s Greenmount campus following encouragement from David to spend time away from the farm.

Despite a challenging time for the industry, David’s meticulous focus on costs and his close relationship with his processor have given him the confidence to plan for expansion.

New pig houses are already under construction, and plans are afoot to modernise the dry sow house and serving area.

Refurbishment of the second-stage weaner housing will include weighing facilities so that trials can be carried out on different feeding regimes to further improve efficiency.

Winning ways

  • An ambitious desire to always improve his business
  • Close attention paid to all aspects of the business, using data to drive decision-making
  • A strategic approach to expansion, prioritising areas that will deliver most value first
  • Clever use of technology to improve production and welfare and minimise reliance on hard-to-source labour

The other finalists were:

  • Lizzy Murrell, Railway Farm, Norfolk
  • Matthew Burgess, Manton Forest Farm, Nottinghamshire

A word from our independent judge

“David’s attention to detail is incredible across all aspects of running his farm, and this shows in his pigs. He embraces the technology that works for him to the absolute maximum and turns any challenge into an opportunity to better the performance of his herd, without compromise.”

Rebecca Veale, chief policy adviser, National Pig Association

The 2022 Farmers Weekly Awards

Farmers Weekly’s farming awards celebrates the very best of British agriculture by recognising hard-working and innovative farmers across the UK.

Find out more about the Awards, the categories and sponsorship opportunities on our Awards website.