If you don’t ask…. you don’t get

In this job, you never know what each day will bring. I start with a plan, then someone comes with a question, problem or information. As I started writing this, a press officer asked about the old hot potato – feeding kitchen waste to pigs. Not another ‘save the planet’ argument! It seems more kitchen waste is being fed to pigs.

Despite our best efforts, this is still happening as people seek to save a few bob, putting a whole industry at risk. Quick reply, bumpf dispatched along with directions to standards. Let’s hope it’s stopped.

Last month we met with those at the Rural Payments Agency responsible for the Countryside Productivity Small Grant Scheme. They were interested in ideas for items to be included next time. The £60 million scheme has seen 3,500 beneficiaries apply for £23.5m so far. Another application window is promised for autumn. The scheme helps farmers to buy equipment needed to boost productivity, save time and increase yields.

This meeting provided a valuable insight into the scheme and flagged up wider opportunities for pig producers than first reading of the initial information might suggest. Items such as dribble bars and trailing shoes for slurry spreaders, GPS for drills and spreaders and irrigation reservoirs were widely flagged as eligible.

A closer look at Annex A of the handbook reveals all sorts of useful items – handling systems and electronic scales, enclosed piglet creeps and heat pads, for a start. The trick seems to be not just to read the sections headed ‘pigs’ but the whole lot. Further reading reveals the opportunity to create a digital network around the farm to connect buildings and devices such as connecting room controllers to recording systems. Here is a chance not only to get the infrastructure in place, but also the actual systems and EID readers.

Only the week before, we were talking to a producer with solar PV who is considering installing a battery pack to use the energy generated within his business rather than feed it to the grid. Hey presto, battery packs are ‘in’.

The RPA is keen to hear about other things that could be added. Items sitting under dairy also
fit pigs, so ask the question and provide justification. Justification is critical, as the RPA cannot fund things that are required by law, for example, minimum slurry storage.

Be clear about what boosts productivity, and what allows an increase in production! Something providing more space per animal appears to be OK… being able to house more animals is not.

Now is the time to draw up plans and be ready to fire in an application next time round. Make hay while the sun shines – if there’s any grass!

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About The Author

Nigel Penlington joined AHDB Pigs in 2004 and is now the organisation’s head of research and development and knowledge exchange.