Storms and their names seem to be top of the agenda most weeks just now.
Sitting writing this I am listening to storm Jocelyn – the third named storm of 2024 and we aren’t out of January yet.
I did some googling and storm names run from September to August, resetting to alphabetical name when the next year starts. This means storm Jocelyn is our 10th since September, I’m sure most people won’t be surprised by this fact with the carnage the wet weather this autumn and winter has brought.
This compared to last year when we only had 2 named storms the entire year really puts into perspective how much mother nature rules what we do in agriculture. Let’s hope we don’t see storm Vincent or Walid this year.
My winter plan of getting some of the heavier fields mucked and ploughed early to let them break down with frosts over the winter has failed miserably.
I dropped our plough off early October in the yard, thinking the unsettled weather would pass in a couple of weeks and I would get a couple of fields ploughed before putting the machine away, nicely oiled in the shed for winter.
Unfortunately, the plough is still sitting in the same place 4 months later, rusted up with a pile of mud round it. Again, I am doing the typical farmer thing of still thinking that the unsettled weather will pass soon…
With the battering of the storms and general farm maintenance we haven’t been looking for jobs. Phone calls about something needing fixed or a shed improvement is never far away and time still fly’s by, even with the cold dark nights of winter.
Luckily our day-to-day work with the pigs are relatively unaffected by the weather with any rooms with piglets being born or under the age of 8 weeks still being above 20oC at any time of the day or night.
I am proud that we can keep these animals safe and without stress all year round and one of the reasons we chose to focus on indoor pig production over other options when we entered the industry.
The festive period is always a bit of a squeeze for the pig farm, with many businesses taking a well-earned break, it means we can not sell as many pigs as we would usually for about 3 weeks.
We need to sell on average 300 pigs a week to keep the natural flow of the farm running properly. We tend to sell some pigs slightly earlier and a lower weight just before Christmas to help with space when we are restricted by sales numbers.
We try our best to let the team have some time off over Christmas and New Year, certain jobs in the pigs can be moved onto different days but others are set in stone. Both Harriet and I spent a lot of our time over the festive period in the pigs.
As well as helping give the rest of the team a break it was also because we were away on our honeymoon for the 1st two weeks in January.
This way we didn’t feel quite as guilty leaving everyone in the harsh Scottish winter whilst we sunbathed in Kenya. This was our first proper holiday together and its safe to say we won’t leave it 7 years till the next one.
It is good for us and for our business that we make more time to get away and recharge the batteries. Although this is easier said than done!
On our return we went from 300C to -30C in less than 12 hours. It was straight back to the reality of break downs and paperwork.
Our farm, like every other pig farm is monitored and inspected regularly, we have at least 2 visits a quarter from different people within the industry who will request to see any part of our business at any given time and ensure we are holding the farm, our team and the animals to a high standard.
Next week we have our annual Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and Scottish Quality Crops (SQC) inspections. Both quality assurance schemes hold standards well above the basic level that the government sets.
Its amazing the difference of inspectors we meet and that visit the farm. Some will spend hours looking at every bit of paperwork and make sure every box is ticked in the office, almost looking at the farm and animals as a second thought.
Whilst others spend their time getting to know the people on the farm, watching the animals and understanding how the business operates before looking at the paperwork. I think its probably obvious which type of inspector we prefer.
I do tend to show my thoughts through biscuit selection offered over a cup of tea, if you get a caramel wafer you’re held in high regard!