Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cambridge Agric Tour; Pigs

The sows farrow in these outdoor units which are bedded down with deep straw. When they're due to farrow they nest down and the little windows at the back means the farmers are able to check on them easily without disturbing her.
 Once the piglets are a couple days old they'll be up and about, running around the sty and outside.
 The sows had loads of room separated off by electric fences which the piglets could run underneath if they really wanted to but they tended to stick close to mom and not venture too far.
 After about a month the piglets were weaned and moved into groups with big automatic drinkers and feeders which they soon got used to and had a lot of space to run around and wallow in.
 You can see here the size of the field they were in and how much space the pigs had, this was just once of the fields they kept - they had tens of fields like this full of pigs.
 Everything is arranged like a clock around the central unit in the middle so if the pigs need to be handled they can just open one of the gates and herd them into the middle making it stress free and easy for the staff and the pigs.
The middle unit had lots of gates and panels to allow them to separate groups of pigs by size, sex or for any other reason easily then back up a trailer to load them straight into to move them off site or for slaughter.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cambridge: Agric Tour

I've been to Cambridge this week on an Agric Tour to go and see loads of farms, demo farms and various new enterprising businesses.

Lots of them are LEAF demo farms (Linking Environment And Farming) so are the best of the best, and supply to Waitrose, Harvey Nichols, Harrods and other places like that.

On the way down on Tues we stopped at Bottom Farm to see Duncan Farrington who makes Mellow Yellow - Rapeseed oil, salad dressing, mayo and things like that for Waitrose and farm shops.

On Wednesday we went to G's who grow salad. They grow it from seed in big plastic trays in huuge greenhouses made from the same stuff as the Eden Project, then it gets planted out. They grow 80million lettuce each year in the greenhouse, then they buy more in from Chichester and Hull for when they plant into the ground!
Then they're planted out with a siik machine they built on-farm...

Wednesday afternoon we went to another LEAF farm that grow Organic and Conventional vegetables. We got on a trailer on the back of a tractor and he drove us round the farm!
They have to irrigate the crops (for quality rather than yield) and it costs £30,000 a week! Saw all of Waitroses organic red onions for this year in one field, and 25% of their conventional red onions.

Thursday morning we went to Thrift Farms to see Robert Law who was Farmers Weekly's "Farmer of the Year 2006" and grows crops and has sheep - 300 pet lambs this year!
Some of his sheep are on land owned by OFCOM so they're walking around the monitoring pylons and things! He has to be careful with fencing up there and can't use electric fencing 'cos it interferes with their equipment.
Thursday afternoon we went to Midloe Grange Farm to see more wheat. We were walking through a field of wheat and saw a baby hare just sat there...