Dennis Bridgeford farms
50ha (125 acres) at Petley
Farm in Easter Ross, north
of Inverness. The farm
comprises a 480-sow
indoor unit producing 95kg
pigs for one outlet and 85kg
pigs for a local abattoir. A
further 320 sows are run
outdoors. Land not used for
pigs grows spring barley
MY predictions of last month came to fruition with the purchase of the Malton operation by the Grampian Food Group.
I wish them well. I hope Grampians drive and enthusiasm will mark the beginning of improved financial returns to all sectors involved in pig production.
Over the years, the outdoor unit has had the odd problem with foxes, but controllable. However, for some reason over the past few weeks they have developed a taste for pigmeat. One night, a litter was targeted and six piglets were missing in the morning.
With no fox-hunting with hounds in our area – it is pretty ineffective anyway – we engaged the help of a local sharp-shooter. Our own staff have also had some success, but it appears to be a growing problem.
In a costs purge, three months ago, we decided after seven years to change our outdoor sow rolls supplier. This was not done lightly, in fact I was exceedingly reluctant, but when we calculated the saving it amounted to £300 a month.
We have been pleasantly surprised to date that the cheaper diet, which has a similar specification to the previous one, has had no ill effect on sow condition. I hope this will continue as winter approaches.
Due to the dire price of pigs over the past few months, I have been dragging my feet on our conversion work to create extra weaner accommodation. But after a slight improvement in market conditions, we have begun to lay concrete and build supporting walls for the pen divisions.
The conversion will be used for housing pigs from flat decks, allowing more pigs to be offered wet feed. The advantages should be twofold, allowing more space in flat decks for slightly smaller pigs and enabling us to feed all pigs wet feed for longer.
I must be mad, but the business cannot stand still. I keep convincing myself the extra space will allow us to sell heavier pigs. It is rather ironic that grain is relatively cheap, but we are still struggling to achieve a reasonable return. This highlights the damage done to the industry over the past three years.
With the machinery problems we were experiencing last month behind us, it came as a great disappointment that my part-time farrowing assistant has decided to move on.
Having her here worked a treat. We left her to do the motherly part on Wednesdays when most farrowings take place. As though to rub salt into the wound, she is going to work in a supermarket, hopefully to sell British bacon. *
Foxes seem to have developed a keen taste for pigmeat on Dennis Bridgefords outdoor unit and they have been proving difficult to control.