Norfolk pig farmer Stuart Mayhew has won a laptop computer and a year’s free subscription to PigCom — a windows-based pig management software package — in a prize worth £1,500.
Stuart, who entered a free draw run by Yorkshire-based pig-breeding company ACMC Ltd at the British Pig and Poultry Fair earlier this year, runs a 360-sow farrow-to-finish operation, producing 9,000-10,000 pigs a year on his 500-acre farm near Bungay.
Delighted with the prize, Stuart says he hopes the electronic system — which includes technical back-up — will help him improve herd performance in key areas, such as farrowing index.
Limited finishing space and environmental considerations prevent any further expansion without huge expenditure on manure handling systems to meet IPPC regulations, so he says his only option is to become more efficient. His current recording scheme “involves a fair level of paperwork” and finding usable data is very time-consuming , he says, so he is looking for a more targeted system which simplifies essential data.
Pigs are sold to local company C & K Meats, who have a new multi-species abattoir “just down the road” at Eye, with around 15 a week being sent to a specialist butcher in Beccles. They kill out at around 75 kg deadweight. Increasing the selling weight to improve returns is not an option because the abattoir specialises in the fresh meat ‘butcher’ market which requires lighter pigs than those required for processing. Nevertheless, Stuart says he manages to achieve about 60 per cent Qs, which achieve a 2p or 6p premium, depending on weight.
Selling locally has its advantages, says Stuart. He gets good feedback on his pigs and also the price is reasonably sensitive to the market being based on DAAP, spot and retail prices.
The farm supplies 80 per cent of the cereals needed for his home-mixed rations, which cushions him to a degree against the spike in feed prices, though last year he ran out of his own cereals before Christmas! Due to wet drilling in 2010 and the drought in the spring of 2011, a farm yield of two tonnes per acre was achieved from the harvest that year. Despite difficult conditions in much of the country this year, an average yield of 3.6 tonnes per acre has been achieved from the 2012 harvest.
“Though cereal quality, as on many other farms, is not great it will make the farm far more self-sufficient. What a difference a year makes!” commented Stuart. However, he uses a nutritionist Dr Kevin Stickney, who lives locally but works for Scottish company Harbro, to ensure his diets farm mixed diets are up to spec.
Stuart has both straw and slurry systems. He uses all his own straw and also brings in more through a local straw-for-muck arrangement.
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