The benefits of having students on the farm

Andrew Freemantle is on the NPA Producer Group representing the South West. He runs a 350-sow unit, farm shop and hog roast operation near Exeter

I have a smorgasbord of comment this month. Firstly, I would concur with the NPA with reference to the mutual benefit of having vet students. We have had many over the last 25 years and, in the vast majority of cases, we and the students have had a good deal.

I have a helpful guide:

  • Only have them for two weeks – the first week to learn the ropes, the second to help you out.;
  • Have one at a time. Consider our grandparents’ advice – one boy is one boy, two boys is half a boy and three boys are no boys at all;
  • Most will end up as small animal vets (some will see the light and go large), so give them lots of jobs in the farrowing house and vaccinating piglets. Being able to handle so many animals in such a short space of time provides them with fantastic experience;
  • Try to find students who can commute. If you have to provide accommodation, make sure it is habitable and safe;
  • Make them feel part of the team;
  • Don’t have them pressure washing for the whole two weeks, but get them to do some, so they at least know what it entails; and
  • Have a visitor book for them to fill in. It’s heart-warming to see how much they (hopefully) enjoyed the experience. And you have someone that should be an advocate for the pig industry.

We are doing Open Farm Sunday (OFS) for the fifth year. It’s a lot of work, but the farm gets a good tidy and it’s heartening to hear the positive comments. It’s a good opportunity to explain to the general public how a Red Tractor pig farm works.

At the last AHDB Exeter Pig Club meeting, we had an interesting discussion about the influence of social media on the younger generation, and the sobering reality that they believe a lot of what they see on it. OFS gives us a chance to redress the balance.

To paraphrase Sir Alex Ferguson – China, bloody hell! – I am trying to get my head around all the information coming from the area.

One thing I do know about some processors is that when they see an unavoidable, imminent price rise, they knock prices down a week, or even weeks, before because, well, they bloody can. Which makes me think the prices will be heading south sharply as their reluctance to move with the market has never been greater. Reminds me of my kids eating broccoli…

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