More than 100 visitors to an open day on a Suffolk farm learned how contract finishing has given an enterprising farmer’s son a kick-start in pig production.

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Ben Luxford has made a major investment into two acres of land and a brand new 1,000 pig place straw-based finishing house at Old Newton, near Stowmarket.

The 500-acre family farm could not support Ben, who instead began work as a self-employed carpenter. However, he has now negotiated a five-year contract finishing agreement with British Quality Pigs (BQP) which will give him a steady, low-risk income.

He bought the land from his father — at the going market rate — and, on the advice of BQP, approached Woolpit-based Quality Equipment to erect the 200ft by 50ft steel portal-framed building.

The pig building has 22 pens, with plastic divisions, down the centre and push-through dunging passages against the outer walls. Feed is supplied to ad-lib hoppers, via conveyors from exterior bulk feed hoppers, and a bank of nipple drinkers is provided over a water-trough, to help young piglets.

A roll of, damp-proof membrane has been used to form a false ceiling over the pens to keep in heat when the piglets are young, and natural ventilation is controlled by automatically-adjusted curtains above the outer walls.

The solid-floored dung passages will be pushed through with a tractor-mounted scraper every one or two days, depending on the age of the pigs, and the muck stored on a walled pad at the end of the house.

The use of straw is important as the pigs are reared under a high-welfare Freedom Food contract. Ben has a straw-for muck arrangement with his father and reckons he will use around 85-acres worth of straw annually.

BQP supplies the pigs, feed and veterinary services while Ben provides the housing, straw, water, labour and day-to-day management for which he’s paid a gross annual income approaching £40 per pig place, made up of a weekly management fee, performance related bonuses and an 11 batch new-build payment.

The pigs are delivered at four weeks of age when weighing around 7kg and leave for slaughter between 15 and 20 weeks when reaching 108kg. The system should allow a throughput of 2.2 batches, producing 2,200 finished pigs a year.

The house cost £200,000 and the land £20,000, but Ben says this offers a secure way back into farming since he won’t have to worry about the fluctuating price of feed or weaners — the main input costs.

He reckons daily management will take about two hours, and is so confident about the enterprise as he is planning to put up a similar house in the next six months.

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