Dennis Bridgeford farms 50ha (125 acres) at Petley Farm 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. The
land not used for pigs grows spring barley
WHAT a start to the winter – you just would not believe how fantastic the weather has been.
Long periods of sunshine during the day as well as mild evenings. Paddocks on the outdoor unit are still nice and dry and the sows look extremely content. Staff have been busy preparing for the short winter days; it does not get light until after 9am and by 3.30 in the afternoon you need lights on the tractors.
We have now put five weeks weaning through the new service shed, and it is working a treat to date. We have only one sow that has not been served within seven days after weaning. The boars have also settled in well to the deep bedded straw. It would appear they appreciate the extra grip on the floor, and it has also cut out the drudge of cleaning out boars every other day.
One failure has been the water system, I really should have known better. We installed one that relied on gravity and a small trough up the middle of the pens, but we just cant get it to work properly. It chocks up with debris and the odd sow has taken a liking to washing her face in the trough, with the result that there is water everywhere. We have decided to abandon it and move on to nipples force fed above the water troughs.
All through the summer our losses in the farrowing houses have been at a reasonable level, but for some reason we always seem to see more in October. This year has been no exception, numbers born have also dipped. The noticeable point is that the quality of pig born is not that good. We really should not keep sows over seven parities but you always think, lets go for one more. The other more worrying concern is that the new line of gilt we are using seems to be variable in suckling ability. This dam line contains a percentage of Duroc. The breeding company is suggesting we served them too young.
That argument may hold water for the first few served. From now on we are going to integrate them into the herd as soon as they come out of quarantine and not serve them for at least 10 weeks after delivery. I note by their dates of birth that they were pushed hard as growing animals, which shows their potential but does not improve their breeding ability and makes them more susceptible to leg trouble.
The wheat we bought at harvest time on the futures market looks as though it is going to be on the expensive side when you look at the national figures. Quality in Scotland this year has been at best disappointing, but in most cases terrible. The arable sector obviously began to get cold feet with costs when they saw that prices were not going to be high. The big difficulty we have is securing quality wheat before the distilling industry buys it all. *
Sow paddocks are still dry and sows are content, says Dennis Bridgeford.