An Aberdeenshire pig farmer has thanked involvement in the North-east Pig Monitor Farm project for a 20% increase in the amount of pig meat produced per sow on his unit.
Patrick Stephen says the project, which was jointly funded by economic development agency Opportunity North East (One) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), had been a huge success at his Mill of Carden Farm, Inverurie.
The project set out to improve the profitability, productivity and sustainability of pig producers through practical demonstrations and sharing of best practice.
Mr Stephen said significant changes had been made in the past four years at the 900-acre farm’s pig unit, which is run by manager Wayne Ducker and home to a 530-sow herd housed on straw. The farm runs JSR females with a Danbred terminal sire, and finished pigs are sold through the Scottish Pig Producers marketing group to Quality Pork Processors at Brechin or Woodhead Brothers. It now sells 20% more pigmeat per sow than it did before the start of the project.
“Being a monitor farm has pushed us to improve the business and has helped put the business in good stead for the future,” said Mr Stephen.
“We have become more efficient by improving management practices and are regularly investing in new buildings, for example, an environmentally controlled 1,800 place weaner shed and a 1,600 space grower/finisher shed to improve feed conversion and growth rates.”
He said prior to the monitor farm project, 600 pigs were finished on an off-farm site. These are now finished at the farm, resulting in improved biosecurity, and reduced bed and breakfast, straw and labour costs.
“We’ve also invested in a new grain store and straw shed which will improve straw quality as all straw was previously stored outside which, in turn, should reduce the risk of mycotoxin issues in the breeding herd,” added Mr Stephen.
“Refurbishment of the electronic sow feeding system and the installation of a new water tank will also improve pig drinking water and improve growth rates.”
Mr Stephen hailed the community aspect of the monitor farm project and said he, and 25 other pig producers in Aberdeenshire, had been using the Agrosoft pig production software.
This allows the farm to record and manage every element of herd performance, and benchmark itself against the rest of the Scottish industry.
QMS pig specialist, Allan Ward, encouraged other farmers to make use of benchmarking.
He said: “The sharing of best practice with fellow farmers at the monitor farm meetings helps Scottish pig production businesses to be efficient and sustainable.
“Mr Stephen’s farm is a great example of a pig business which was performing well before it started the programme, but there was recognition that there was scope for further improvement.
“By making these changes, Mr Stephen has delivered significant gains.”