An Aberdeenshire farm has been announced as Scotland’s new pig monitor farm in an initiative jointly supported by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and Opportunity North East (ONE).
Mill of Carden Farm near Inverurie, owned by Patrick Stephen, has a commercial herd of 530 sows housed on straw.
The farm currently employs four members of staff, including farm manager Wayne Ducker, and runs JSR females with a Danbred terminal sire.
Mill of Carden has been run as a pig unit since the 1960s with the most recent new building being a French-designed weaner shed which was put up 18 months ago and features an innovative ventilation system.
Pig health and welfare are a priority on the farm and Mr Stephen is keen to look at ways to further improve his herd’s health status as part of the farm’s involvement in the monitor farm programme.
“We take a real pride in what we do but there is always room for improvement and there will definitely be opportunities to introduce changes to further improve our system,” said Mr Stephen, who is also chairman of Scottish Pig Producers.
“We would also like to focus on weighing and data collection to ensure we can very closely monitor our costs of production. We’re looking forward to sharing what we learn along the way with other producers and hopefully their businesses can benefit from our experiences too.”
A further area which Mr Stephen is keen to explore is an evaluation of the two different types of feed systems which he currently runs – one is ad-lib and the other is restricted feeding.
Allan Ward, Pig Specialist with Quality Meat Scotland, said he was delighted to welcome Patrick Stephen and the Mill of Carden team as the new monitor farmers.
“The farm is a great example of a pig business which is performing well but recognises that there is scope for further improvement and that small changes can deliver significant gains,” said Mr Ward.
“The enthusiasm of Patrick and his team to get involved in this project and to share what they learn for the benefit of the whole industry gives us a great base to start from. We’re looking forward to working with the Mill of Carden team and I’m certain the project will deliver a great deal over the next four years.”
Opportunity North East aims to strengthen and diversify the region’s business base by providing access to expertise and actively investing in projects that support growth in key industries. Food, drink and agriculture is one of the four key sectors which it is supporting in the region.
“The north east of Scotland is where the majority of Scottish pig farming takes place and is home to over 60% of the Scottish sow herd,” said Peter Cook, Director of Food Drink and Agriculture at ONE.
“Pig production is worth around £40 - £50 million annually to the region’s economy. To sustain and grow the sector we need to see the tremendous improvement in performance which can be gained through the programme.
“Growth in numbers, quality, health and welfare will strengthen the whole marketing chain, as will the supply chain development work we are supporting through the project. We need to turn the concentrated nature of our Scottish pig sector into a competitive advantage and continue to produce top quality pork which is at the forefront of European production in terms of animal health and welfare,” said Mr Cook.
The new pig monitor farm will be facilitated by pig vet Grace Webster and George Chalmers of SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College. The project will also involve three separately-funded satellite groups in Dumfries, Perth and Nairn,
For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.qmscotland.co.uk