Country Smallholding - - Ask the Experts -

If you pre­fer to stick with con­ven­tional pig feed, how can you make sure you are sav­ing money wher­ever you can?

• Shop around. You will be sur­prised at the vari­a­tion in price be­tween dif­fer­ent sup­pli­ers – whether you’re deal­ing with shops or buy­ing di­rect from the man­u­fac­tur­ers. Find out what your friends are pay­ing and don’t be afraid to hag­gle, play­ing off one feed rep against an­other.

• Buy in bulk. A tonne of pig feed is just 40 x 25kg bags or 50 x 20kg bags. De­liv­ered stacked on a wooden pal­let, it takes up just a small bit of space – or, if you buy from your lo­cal feed mer­chant, you may be able to ar­range to pay up front and take a few bags at a time. An­other al­ter­na­tive is to get to­gether with other pig keep­ers in your area – maybe through a lo­cal small­hold­ing club – and share a load.

• Buy loose feed. If you have suit­able stor­age fa­cil­i­ties and you are us­ing large amounts of feed, it might be worth you get­ting your feed de­liv­ered loose and ‘blown in’. A lorry turns up, un­furls a mas­sive hose, and lit­er­ally blows the pel­lets into your hop­per. This can mean sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings – nor­mally a dis­count of around £50 a tonne – but there is usu­ally a min­i­mum de­liv­ery of three tonnes. An­other dif­fi­culty is keep­ing your feed se­cure from ver­min. Also, de­pend­ing on the con­struc­tion of your hop­per, clean­li­ness, ven­ti­la­tion, sea­sonal fluc­tu­a­tions in tem­per­a­ture, and cool­ing time al­lowed at the man­u­fac­tur­ing plant af­ter the feed is made, mould can be a prob­lem.

• Con­sider mix­ing your own feed. It is pos­si­ble to buy in ce­re­als, along with es­sen­tial vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, and cre­ate your own feed, but get­ting the nu­tri­tional bal­ance right is not easy. Fur­ther­more, you will need to ap­ply to your lo­cal au­thor­ity for a mix­ing li­cence and you will be ex­pected to sat­isfy a whole lot of con­di­tions to en­sure your feed is safe. Mix­ing your own can be tricky, time- con­sum­ing, and you need to have ex­cel­lent stor­age fa­cil­i­ties to do it prop­erly. If you are feed­ing out­doors, there can also be lots of food wasted.

• Mea­sure how much you are feed­ing! This may seem a ridicu­lously sim­plis­tic thing to sug­gest, but how many of you can hon­estly say you know ex­actly how much each of your pigs re­ally needs at var­i­ous stages of life? Also, do you know how much your feed scoop ac­tu­ally holds? Feed­ing your pigs too much ev­ery day, week in, week out, is like throw­ing money down the drain. Firstly, ex­cess pro­tein is just ex­creted – re­mem­ber that, next time you’re muck­ing out. Se­condly, when you get your meat back from the butcher, that 5cm band of fat on your chops that you prob­a­bly cut off and toss in the bin will have been paid for by you. If you have breed­ing stock, over-feed­ing does them no favours. Gilts and sows with too fat on them can have more trou­ble con­ceiv­ing, as well as dif­fi­culty far­row­ing.

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