Mechanical mayhem may be just the dietary kick my pigs needed

June is a month I normally look forward to, especially the week of the Royal Highland Show.

The family still trundles down the road to Edinburgh – it’s great in theory, but taking three people out of the workforce does cause logistic problems.

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

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

Sadly, matters really went haywire this year. Firstly, our main workhorse of a tractor (slurry tanker one) broke down. My faith in mechanics was being seriously tested – out came the injectors, then the pistons, all sent off for refurbishment. But there was no improvement and the engine still sounded like an old VW Beetle.

So, after a serious amount of head scratching, the mechanic decided to take it for, let us say, a spin.
Lo and behold, he came back with a huge grin, declaring an engine code had come up with a sensor problem, as if by miracle the matter had been rectified. Invoice – in thousands; debate – a lot!

If that wasn’t enough, our feed mixer decided to spectacularly self-destruct. I suspect one of the mixer slats came off, caught the next one and wrecked and twisted all 30 of them. To get that phone call at the show cheered me up no end!

So, I was straight on the phone to our knight in shining armour – in our case, Harbro, with its mobile mill and mixer. This was a real eye-opener – we got through more milling in one day than we can do in a week.
As often happens when you have a major change, we discovered the finishing diet was low in protein, so that was rectified and maybe some good came out of this disaster.

As we move forward I suspect little or no capital will be spent on the mills and we will augment at busy periods with the mill mix.
One incident at the show’s Highland Trust Education Discovery Centre stuck in the memory – a girl, of around 14, was milking a plastic cow and declared that she didn’t realise milk came from a cow! It’s sad really.
Back to the pigs: the change in finishing diets has helped push growth rates – maybe it was the kick they required. As we left the spring I could see pig numbers in the herd increasing, highlighting the slower growth.

“Harbro’s mobile mill and mixer was a real eye-opener – we got through more milling in one day than we can do in a week”

The new gilt line T90s are farrowing well, with large numbers born. It’s noticeable that when we wean them, the gilts have almost extended udders – overall, I am pleased with them. Maybe slighter higher weaning weights would help but I am sure we will tweak that.

As the pig price continues to rise, and we’ve passed the first anniversary of the Brexit vote, I did predict a dramatic increase in inflation, correct again! As for interest rates, I don’t think the country can afford a sudden increase – let’s hope I’m right again.

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