It was a happy harvest – but extreme weather has played havoc with fertility

Dennis Bridgeford is based near Easter Ross in Scotland’s Highland Region and operates an indoor herd of 550 sows rearing lighter-weight finishers of 75kg

The harvest of 2018 will long be remembered for ease of execution.

We started and finished with no rain, and we baled and transported straw like a well-oiled machine!

Yield wasn’t spectacular, but the combine’s tank was full at almost the same spot in the field as last year and the only real problem was getting the awn off the grain. We grow everything for feed, so skinning wasn’t going to be a problem – tightening up the concave in the combine helped to cure it.

Drying was almost unnecessary, with moistures well below 16%, but we have been caught out before with natural grain. Unconditioned grain stored for a few months before use is not a good idea for pig diets.

Straw yield is well back. We normally sell a few loads to cover the cost of baling and Neil’s phone has been red hot, so we could have sold everything we have, plus more. Sadly, one load is all we can spare until we see how the year goes.

Soya had been ‘on fire’, but the law of huge tonnages (plus currency) is maybe now kicking in and, without going into the politics of the soya industry, we have now bought most of our requirements for next year.

September is the month we purchase our electricity for either one or two years. Now, this is an industry that verges on some really sharp practice. You get a price in the morning that has to be accepted by 4pm that day!

The really bad news is that we received quotes for a 20% price hike. In our case, with home milling and mixing, this would equate to £9k extra per annum – not for the faint hearted! As September progresses, we still have to sign a contract.

The Beast from the East during the winter months affected fertility and pig growth. It is now emerging that the heat from the Tropics (doesn’t have the same ring to it) during the summer didn’t do us any favours either.

We are finding the odd sow not in pig with one week in particular ‘not good’. We ran extra fans in the service shed in an effort to reduce temperatures but when it’s more than 30 degrees outside you are only moving hot air. Hopefully it will only be a blip. We are reserving the younger sows to try and come close to service targets.

Now, I wish I could be more positive with pig price – it’s under pressure with the processors looking back across the channel at cheap imports. There are even more alarming serious health problems in Belgium, with the Germans cancelling product.

The cynic in me fears some of that product will land on our doorstep! Can we not pull up the drawbridge now before our home industry is affected?

Try a bit of self-preservation first and argue the finer details later?

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