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Clockwork Operation Ticks Boxes for Young Pig Farmers

by 5m Editor
28 March 2008, at 12:30pm

SCOTLAND - “Good advice is worth its weight in gold and we’ve had our eyes and ears open from the word go", says Alastair Lane.

As a principle, it’s one that has paid dividends, for whilst Alastair and Vickie Lane of Middlebie Rigg Farm near Lockerbie are relatively novice pig farmers, they are already getting remarkable results: 12.5 piglets born alive, with 11 piglets weaned per litter at 8 kilos.

Formerly beef and sheep farmers, newlyweds Alastair and Vickie – both 33 - decided to join Alastair’s parents in Scotland after losing the tenancy of their Leicestershire farm and started their 105 sow pig farm in September 2006. “One thing that immediately struck us about the pig industry”, says Vickie, “was how generous everyone is with their help. If they’ve made a mistake, they want to make sure you don’t fall into the same trap. In some sectors, it’s much more every man for himself. We’ve been lucky with the people we’ve met and the support they’ve offered.”

Alastair continues: “When it’s a business you already know, you take some advice, but then slip back to your old ways; you think you know best. But here, although I am an experienced stockman, I was out of my comfort zone, so I’d follow good advice to the letter. So far, that’s helped us to get the results moving in the right direction.”

Alastair, who attended Brooksby Melton College, had always been interested in farming pigs commercially and was keen to grasp this opportunity. Having heard of JSR Genetics he got in touch with his local rep, Giles Christie, who as part of his ‘start-up advice’ in turn recommended independent pig consultant Paul Wright.

Mr Wright comments: “Alastair has done the best thing in that he has started as he means to go on, establishing ideal routines right from the beginning and working hard to get them right. I advised that, rather than convert existing buildings with limited potential, he install two new Portapig farrowing houses. In fact, he’s established his business on an ideal format; that of the Bishop Burton model farm.”

Until recently, Alastair and Vickie have managed Middlebie farm between them. However, with Vickie recently giving birth to the couple’s first baby boy in January, they are determined to get it running like clockwork so that Alistair can cope on his own.

Stocked with JSR Genepacker 90’s, Alastair uses Regumate to synchronize heats and has established a 3 weekly batch farrowing routine. Gilts are shown the JSR Titan boar every day prior to an 18 day Regumate period and, once on heat, are served three times; twice by AI, followed by one natural service. Conception rates of 94.4% and 2.44 litters per sow per year are the reward.

Alastair also likes to feed harder than most. “Getting the Genepackers into such good condition going into the crate has a great knock on effect: big piglets and lots of milk. The sows then keep their condition and come quickly back into heat - all ready to start again.”

Piglets are weaned into batches of 150 at 8kg and grown on in the same shed for a further 14 weeks. They are then finished in separate buildings for the final six weeks before being marketed at 81.5kgs through Scotlean Pigs, a farmer owned co-operative that supplies contracts with Tulip in Ashton, Manchester.

As for the future, Alastair and Vickie are determined to take things slowly and deliberately, careful not to run before they can walk.

“My usual approach to things generally has been described as ‘bull at a gate’ but not this,” he confirms. “I want to get the formula exactly right before I even think of expanding. Then, whether it’s 100 or 1,000 the routine should be the same – all done by rota, all in good time. Even when I do expand I intend to keep the whole operation on one site. Then I can keep transport costs down and stay in control.”

5m Editor