Two steps forward, one step back

One of the most pleasing things we did on the farm this month was to take the Stabox (antibiotic) out of our creep feed.

Our new buildings are now fully stocked, meaning we are not weaning anymore into unsuitable buildings with poor ventilation and large swings in temperature. This ensures we are no longer vulnerable to the major inconvenience of meningitis and takes us well under the 50mg/kg target for antibiotic use. We still have zinc included as my vet advised me that it was imperative if we wanted to keep the piglets’ digestive system healthy.

Zinc’s future is in doubt but, thanks to lobbying by the National Pig Association, among others, we will hopefully get the opportunity to use it for another 10 years (being enough time to come up with a viable alternative). Please remember this very valuable work the NPA does, when it comes to renewing or even joining the organisation. To paraphrase Mark Carney, from the Bank of England, for the non-members out there, please stop ‘relying on the kindness of strangers’.

“As always happens in pig farming, just when you think things are going OK, something unexpected happens”

Alas, as always happens in pig farming, just when you think things are going OK, something unexpected happens. Over Christmas we had an outbreak of Erysipelas in our maiden gilts, which was surprising as we vaccinate regularly.
It turns out Erysipelas type 2, which we have probably got but the vaccine does not cover, is spreading around the UK. There is a vaccine available, but you can only use it under a special licence as it is imported from Germany.

Unfortunately, some samples sent to the local Veterinary Investigation Centre (luckily we still have one!) came back as inconclusive, so the only thing we can do now to treat the gilts is to include the antibiotic Pulmoltil in their feed. This, hopefully, should get the outbreak under control.
But this situation has made me realise how important it is to have a full arsenal of drugs at your disposal. The onus, though, is on us as farmers to use them as carefully and as transparently as possible, so they are always going to be available in the future.

Over the last month, I have been asked to give two talks to dairy, beef and sheep farmers about how we have diversified at Kenniford and how pig farmers manage without the Basic Payment.

About 70% of beef and sheep farmers’ income comes from the subsidy. But, post-Brexit, something is going to replace it and, in all probability, that is not going to be as generous as it is now. The implications for our industry could be positive, as we might get access to something for a change!
Top of my list would be help investing in new buildings and small-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) support, as it represents such a missed opportunity to get energy from waste.

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