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UK - Vicky Morgan gained her honours degree at Harper Adams in agrifood marketing, took a year off to travel and then came home to join her parents, David and Sue Morgan, at Pockthorpe Hall, near Driffield in Yorkshire, reports Pig Worlds Sam Walton.
calendar icon 7 November 2006
clock icon 10 minute read
JSR Genetics on

After a career in farm management and share farming, David started on his own account at Pockthorpe in 1996 with 800 sows producing weaners for a specific outlet. The previous owner had converted all the old brick buildings, where suitable, into farrowing houses. Although some of them are still in use as an overflow, the rest have been gutted and will be converted for other uses, and eight new Warkup farrowing rooms of 24 crates each in one long row have been built.

The aim is to get out of the old buildings entirely as the rooms need renewing and are not as good to manage as the new ones even though over the years the pigs have done well. Big Dutchman has supplied and fitted the wet feeding equipment and the Skov ventilation for the new farrowing accommodation. Sows at farrowing are wet-fed once a day for the first four days, increased to four times a day once all sows are farrowed. Planate (a synthetic prostaglandin) is used as a management tool to help get all sows farrowing together.

When I visited, it was the first week they had not cut the piglets’ teeth. Iron and tail cauterising are carried out as a normal routine. Tail-biting is not a problem in any of their bed-and-breakfast straw yards. In the first two rooms to be built, they decided they would use fixed farrowing crates which they felt would be strong and last a long time. They now feel this was a mistake as it is a lot easier to get sows in and out of the flexible-width crates used in the other six rooms. Maybe that is a point worth bearing in mind.

As you enter every farrowing room, you step onto a disinfectant pad sunk slightly into a recess to retain the disinfectant. Vicky says they are okay, but do need to be cleaned often, as they get dirty. Currently there are 1,000 JSR Genepacker 90 sows mated to Super Lean Yorker boars, all progeny leaving the farm at 7 to 8 kilos for finishing in 25 bed-and-breakfast outlets.

David Morgan, Vicky Morgan, Tim Goodyear, Jack Megson, Andrew Moorfoot and Christine Shepherd.

Washed out

The majority of these sites are in straw yards which are completely emptied and washed out before the next batch arrives. Currently 500 weaners leave the farm each week and the aim is to fill one yard completely. The other accommodation, intensive and semi-intensive, is more flexible for numbers but again all-in, all-out is the order of the day. Much of the intensive accommodation is getting old and they have noticed that at first when they take a farmer on, often the pigs in the intensive areas grow better than those in the yards but this can tail off after several batches, despite washing out.

Worms are non-existent in pigs from Pockthorpe but they know that in certain yards that have previously had other pigs in, they do need to use a worming programme. This shows how persistent worm eggs are, despite washing and disinfecting. The average time spent in the yards is 133 days with a daily gain of just over 700gms from 7 kilos. The first pigs are drawn at 115 days and the yards cleared over the next four to five weeks. David is fairly confident that if the intensive buildings were new, he could knock a considerable number of pence per kilo off the production costs.

Inside the new Warkup farrowing accommodation.
A lot depends on what Vicky wants to do in the future. If they do build they would build away from their own farm and it wouldn’t surprise me if that is what they eventually do. They would have wet-feeding in any new finisher accommodation they might build, even if just using a proprietary ration. Vicky is a popular member of Young NPA and highly thought of in NPA circles. She is good with staff and well-liked and respected. Herd health is excellent; they hardly use any medicines at all. There was a time during foot and mouth, and then with a bit of PMWS, when conception rates dropped, even though numbers born did not suffer.

To keep total numbers up they overcame that by increasing sow numbers and gradually the problem, whatever it was, cured itself and currently they are heading towards 90 percent conception. They have their own Yorker boar AI stud plus a few Quantum boars for teasing and serving gilts with. David says he doesn’t think they do anything brilliantly but likewise they don’t do anything badly. He praises his staff of four.

Jack Megson and Andrew Moorfoot have been with the family since they started ten years ago. Christine Shepherd joined them in June last year, having no pig experience whatsoever coming from a dairy background – but she has quickly taken to the job and is excellent in the farrowing houses. Tim Goodyear, previously a unit manager for JSR, was brought in as unit manager last year and has had a big influence on the running of the unit. Away from the unit, Eric Raines is the company fieldsman who looks after the finisher side and David is sure he could not have a better chap to do the job.

Dry sows are housed in large straw yards at Pockthorpe and wetfed through Microware ESF stations. The wet feed is all co-products and this goes for the suckling sows also. Some of the products used are Greenwich Gold and salmon protein from Scotland both supplied by Wheyfeeds. Taymix supplies Abracarb and James and Son the potato waste from McCains. They also use wheatfeed and a little bit of lactation balancer for suckling sows. A new Collinson bin has been added at Tim’s request and this has a special wide bottom to prevent the wheatfeed from bridging.

Originally pigs were produced here for Chris Clark who has a feed milling business and still supplies much of the finisher rations on the bed-and-breakfast units, with ABN supplying the creep feeds and the remainder of the grower and finisher rations. Chris Clark does all the formulations for the wet feeding. When he decided to go out of pigs and concentrate on feed production it gave the Morgan family the opportunity to find outlets to finish the pigs themselves. David says that he owes Chris a debt of gratitude for the help and advice he has received from him over the years.

Quantum stimulator boar.

Disinfectant mat.
Since Tim arrived they have reverted from twice a week weaning to once a week. This gives them 500 pigs at one go to fill a lorry and a yard. It has saved time, allowing the team to concentrate on weaning 48 sows and also farrowing 48 sows. More buildings have been put up to house gilts until they are a month in-pig and likewise for the weaned sows. When once tested in-pig they move down into the straw yards 48 at a time. This has helped settle them in and is better than dribbling sows in as they are served.

There are some catcher boars for the weaned sows and some stimulating boars for the gilts which are served on their third heat. The walls in this building are all Whites concrete panels which are easy to install, once the ironwork is in place, and easy to clean as well. There will not be many units, I guess, which are ready for IPPC, but this one is.

Dirty water is kept separate and spread on their own land with a low pressure gun. Solid manure in the gilt house is scraped along the width of the building from the front of the rows of pens to an end passage, where it is shoved up against one wall and periodically carted away. No rain or water gets onto the manure, so no run off. There is sufficient land to spread their own slurry; the solid manure is taken by neighbours. They buy straw locally. They are looking to increase their herd at Pockthorpe by another 500 sows and would add another seven farrowing rooms which would accommodate the extra sows and replace the remainder of the old buildings. To get the necessary planning approval they will need their IPPC permit.

The farm is immaculate with large runs of concrete everywhere. You can see the staff enjoy what they do as working conditions are good. I did ask David for his comments on some of the red tape we have and he is quite sure it is a good thing to have IPPC, NVZ rules in place and particularly welfare and the new waste regulations. He feels it will give farming a better image as like me he has come across some units which are little better than manure hills with string, pieces of tin etc laid around everywhere. He knows there will be extra cost for complying but feels it is worth it. I have to say I have not met many who concur with his thinking about red tape but maybe that is one reason why they are so successful!

As the current team is doing so well, it has allowed Vicky to spend more time on developing the whole business. They rented another unit last year at Boroughbridge, with 450 Genepacker sows, this time using the Titan boar. Here the unit is managed by Wayne Ducker with Vicky making weekly visits and doing relief work. When they took the unit over, the gilts which were to stock it were kept on another farm, away from the unit. Vicky inseminated these gilts and as a biosecurity measure she did not go onto the Pockthorpe unit until they were all in-pig.

David was delighted with the job she did. The gilts averaged 13.1 total born and 13.8 as second litters. In this unit the pigs leave the farm at 30 kilos for further finishing. They find they do not need to clip the teeth, which is what gave them the idea of not doing it at Pockthorpe, and they are waiting to see what the outcome is. There is no wet feeding at Boroughbridge. Sows are dump-fed in groups of 12 or 6 as they farrow eighteen a week. It is a purpose-built unit from the early 80s, mostly (pre-Craftmaster) Pyramid buildings which have stood the test of time.

I suggested it couldn’t be easy to organise the total business with all the various movements but this is where Sue comes in. She does all the records and office work and knows exactly what is going on and can pick up on weak areas. On one unit it became apparent that performance was not as it should be so the Barn Report programme from Farmex was installed and it pinpointed the problem that the pigs were not getting enough water or food. I feel we will see more of Barn Report monitoring as units grow in size.

The family are part of Agskills and believe passionately in training. Wayne was due to go on a leadership development course the next week. All pigs go to Malton on a reasonably heavy contract and a 13 probe. Penalties apply only if the pigs get overweight as Malton doesn’t really want them above a certain weight, so a nice round 78 to 80 kilos dead suits David as it is those last 10 kilos that are the cheapest to put on. I know some factories don’t penalise, they simply don’t pay for any weight over the agreed contract. It was refreshing to see David and Sue encouraging the next generation and particularly encouraging to see their plans for expansion.

Courtesy of Pig World

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