Bishop Burton Pig Unit Reopens With Emphasis On Welfare

UK - The decision to relaunch Bishop Burton College’s pig unit in East Yorkshire as a high-welfare unit has gladdened my heart, reports Sam Walton in the Pig World magazine.
calendar icon 27 September 2006
clock icon 4 minute read
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Two of the former Big Pen finisher houses are to be used to house gilts, 12 in each of the pens. They will be dump-fed, two dumpers per pen. Previously with finishers, mucking out was necessary every day. Now once or twice a week will suffice which is a huge saving on drudge time. At the time of my visit the solid-floored farrowing house was for sale and the ground area where it and the flat decks stand was to be levelled and re-concreted to provide an area for farrowing arks and runs.

I remember once seeing arks with a creep box at the back which makes it possible to put in a lamp and this would be an ideal site on which to do that as electricity is available. I wonder is there a way of then having a drop slide to keep the piglets in the creep box when they need to be handled, which will also make it safer for staff. That will leave some second stage and finisher accommodation to take the proposed premium pigs to slaughterweight.

The former trials house is to be converted to a serving area for on-farm AI. The idea is to batch farrow every two weeks and wean at five weeks. Unit manager Sean Walker is in charge and delighted to have pigs back on the unit. Once the system is up and working it is visualised sow numbers will increase to maybe 250 to make it into a worthwhile commercial unit.

From the newly-painted viewing passage, visitors will see weaners, farrowing, growing, finishing and the sows all on a straw high welfare system. Paul Robinson, the farm manager, is pleased with the way the changes have been taking shape. His objective is to lighten the drudge workload and indeed they will try not grinding teeth or clipping tails but will give iron. With reduced stocking rates there is less likelihood of problems with long tails.

The high-health JSR gilts and Titan boars are PMWS-challenged which I think is sensible. There is talk of a farm shop at the college, which will be able to retail the quality meat, but in the meantime a premium contract is being sought. Jeanette Dawson, the college principal, says the idea of the welfare unit is about providing the best East Yorkshire can produce whilst using the unit as a learning tool for students of which there are increased numbers.

Colin Dennis, the farms director, says the college has to be seen to be producing pigs in a high-welfare manner. He is clear the college needs to be involved in the food chain from farm to plate and to do that means producing more than just a commodity. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.

Courtesy of Pig World

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