Dennis Bridgeford farms
50ha (125 acres) in Easter
Ross, about 40 miles north
of Inverness. The farm
comprises of a 480-sow
indoor unit producing 95kg
pigs for one outlet and 85kg
pigs for a more local
abattoir. A further 320 sows
are run outdoors, with
progeny sold at 7kg
AS luck would have it the year we decide to move dry sow paddocks is the wettest start to April for years.
We have had snow, wind and rain at a time when the dust is normally blowing after sowing. Need-less to say sowing has hardly started, with pools of water everywhere, and with our light, sandy soil, once it gets sodden it caps. The new grass has got off to a bad start, being poached already. Let us hope for a drier spell at the end of the month.
We decided not to move the farrowing paddocks yet. We are still using some of the original ones we set up five years ago, but have not had any problems. This appears to be the advantage of individual paddocks, and while we have a strict bedding burn programme we also spray the huts with disinfectant between batches.
The outdoor sows have come through the winter well. We increase our feed during the winter months and are using 1.3t a sow a year. I often get asked if there is a big difference between the two units. The indoor unit uses 1.1t a sow a year and being home mixed there is a significant cost saving.
With the low pig price we have decided to cease our building programme. It is the first time that I can remember that I have not had something ongoing, but needs must.
I have plenty of plans for future weaner accommodation, maternity pens and even a Dutch barn, but these will all have to wait until we can see a significant improvement in the end price for pigs. Mind you, if cereal prices were to come back to the levels that the trade is beginning to speak about for new crop grain this would help move things along. If it is a late harvest will this increase nitrogen levels in spring barley and further help with the price?
As I have put restrictions on expenditure, I have had to settle to the mundane job of routine maintenance. I have been preparing floors in the existing maternity rooms using an acrylic mixture that you mix with a power drill with a whisk on the end. You get a lovely smooth finish, like a babys bum, and it is easy to put on. It costs £25 a sow place, so it is not ridiculously expensive. I hope it will make the dreaded power washing easier and quicker.
For those that read my column regularly, wet feeding of newly weaned pigs has been a source of despair. I think we have cracked it by washing the tank out every week, offering cube drinkers of water as well as the wet feed, and lowering the specification our diets. If you get it all working properly the food intake of the pigs is tremendous.
I would agree that the food conversion is inferior to pellets, but the growth rate more than makes up for that, the bonus being the pigs grow like mushrooms. The down-specing of the diet will save us £250 a month, which all helps to cut production costs. *
Although the dry sow paddocks at Petley Farm have been moved, the farrowing paddocks will remain in their current situation for the time being.