February 2016: All things in proportion

I hope that by the time you read this, the sun has started to shine both literally and metaphorically on you, your pigs and businesses, although price wise it’s definitely gloom. At recent conferences and pig clubs, we’ve been talking water and where it comes from, but not quite on the scale we’ve experienced recently.

For example, the weatherman gives us statistics such as 800mm of rain in Cumbria, but there’s no context. This is more than the South-east quarter of the country normally receives in a year! And with it being NVZ regulation revision time, it really makes you sit back and consider just how much of the regulation and expectation on the industry is based around theoretical numbers and ideals.

This time round there’s more emphasis on engaging the industry on the methodology used for designating the land that falls into NVZs, particularly surface waters and estuaries. This is good as we don’t want the hassle and uncertainty of last time when some areas included by Defra were pulled out before the regulations were finalised.
Cover crops are another issue up for discussion and, with a reality check, so is moving FYM heaps after 10 months, just because of a ding dong with the French in the European Court.

The key points we made to Defra were all about proportionality. How much land actually gets spread with manures up to the application limit? The stats would suggest very little as a proportion of farmed land. How much FYM actually spends longer than 10 months in a heap? Again I guess not much, as we all know it’s produced daily, not in 10-month intervals! These are only proposals at this stage and work in progress.

While on the subject of water, provision for piglets outdoors is causing a bit of bother in some quarters. Aside from the debate about the genuine need for suckling piglets, we’re seeking solutions. By the time you read this, we’ll have brought key players, producers, equipment suppliers and other interested parties together for a brain-storming session. There are small reservoir and drinker combinations on trial already, so a critical appraisal will no doubt take place. I’m sure collective thoughts from the industry will arrive at a sensible solution for the industry.

The end of last year was rather fraught, with media stories picking up on studies seeking evidence of antibiotic resistance. This is where having knowledgeable and well-informed individuals really pays off. We’re able to keep a watching brief on what’s published in scientific or veterinary circles and the general press, be prepared and have measured proportional responses at the ready.

I certainly learned a lot talking to Martin Smith (AHDB’s technical veterinary team manager), which is very helpful when a phone call comes in from a concerned member of the public.

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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.