© Cranswick

It is normal for most contract pig farms to have dedicated field workers assigned to specific farms to assist them with all aspects of pig production.

This can include anything from setting up the system and setting up a facility, to feeding, health, husbandry and slaughter animal selection.

Farmers raising pigs under a contract will raise pigs of different ages and therefore the farming challenges will be different.

Typically, the main systems are categorized as follows:

  • Weaned piglets (rearing weaners weighing 7-40 kg)
  • Breeder finisher (rearing pigs from 40-115kg)
  • Weaners (rearing pigs weighing 7-115kg)

Rearing sites may require more input at the beginning due to the younger age of the pigs, while pigs on a fattening system are more established.

nourishment

Most feeding programs are dictated by the owner and are designed to suit the genetics of the pigs, says Rick Buckle, executive director of White Rose Farms.

White Rose Farms was founded in 2018 and is owned by the food manufacturer Cranswick. It consists of 25 processing and growing operations and is mainly based in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

“We have specific rations for each stage of the pigs’ life, with creeping, compound and weaning feed used on the rearing farms, and a rearing feed and two fattening pig feed used on the rearing and fattening farms.

“The diets are specifically designed for pig genetics to maximize their growth rates, with all pigs being fed ad libitum,” he explains.

Mr Buckle says the pigs were given some creep feed prior to weaning on the breeding farm to make the transition easier.

“When a ration is changed, it is done gradually so that there is never a sudden change between rations. We have a pretty precise plan of what our farmers should feed the pigs so that the feed meets the needs of the pigs, ”he adds.

All feed arrives at the farms in large quantities and is stored in silos. Ideally, every company should have enough storage space on site to accommodate a full truck load.

“You can use five to six tons of feed a day, so adequate feed storage is critical. All of our feed is ordered from our head office, so the farmer only has to let us know if he needs more and we will take care of it, ”explains Mr. Buckle.

Important nutritional areas:

  • The settings on the automatic feeder – it is important that farmers monitor the waste in the feed trough and keep the feed fresh
  • Make sure the pigs are getting enough feed and that the feed and water systems are working properly so the pigs never run out. Each pen should be checked at least once a day.

Stockmanship

There are a few important things for pig farmers to consider to indicate whether the animals are happy or not.

These include the following:

  • Pigs should always be bright and alert
  • Walk between them to straighten them up and check that they are okay. If they are lame or don’t look good, put them in a special hospital pen and seek expert help
  • If pigs look grumpy and unhappy, call the field worker or veterinarian to identify the problem. If medication is needed, the field man can help the farmer administer medication if the pigs need it.

Mr. Buckle adds, “Sometimes it takes an experienced warehouse worker to identify the problem. Our dedicated team of sales representatives is always available to identify and solve problems.

“For anyone new to pigs, it is important to realize that there is a lot of help out there. Experience often tells you what’s going on, and this is where our field workers can help if the farmer has not yet had this experience, ”he says.

Case study

The Needham family from Louth in Lincolnshire diversified into contract rearing pigs last November.

The farm consists of Sue and John and their son Henry.

When Henry returned to the farm from college, they wanted to expand their arc even more and diversify the farm income.

In addition, TB restrictions and biannual testing made it difficult for the family to test cattle grazing off-farm leased land, so they decided to reduce the herd of 120 suckler cows by 40.

Ms. Needham says, “Given the one-off payments and the variability in crop and beef prices, we wanted a stable income that contract rearing would provide.”

The Needhams invested £ 600,000 in an indoor batten finisher system. Pigs arrive at three months of age and stay on the farm until they weigh around 115 kg.

The contract is with White Rose Farms and they are paid by the square footage of the barn, not the pigs.

“It’s perfect because it helps with cash flow. The building should pay for itself in seven years, ”says Ms. Needham.

The family doesn’t have much experience with pigs, except at university. “But that doesn’t matter, because we have our Fieldman Lee, who comes once a week and gathers experience and knowledge from him,” she says.

In addition, the pig manure benefits the 600 acres of arable land that is grown on the farm.

Ms. Needham added, “We grow wheat, barley and canola and will apply the manure twice a year. So far we have only applied a few and have already been able to reduce the amount of nitrogen purchased. “