Providing an Environment with Choice
In total the units accommodate a 45,000 strong finishing herd, in addition to the breeding herd, from which around 2,200 pigs are sold to a Waitrose contract every week.
Norfolk Free Range are one of a few farms that finish free range pigs outside in tented hurdles, from the age of 4 weeks, and John Clark, Production Manager for 14 finishing units, is well aware of the benefits of providing the animals an environment which offers choice for them to be inside, outside, eating, drinking or sleeping.
Experience has shown that in these conditions the best returns in live weight gain and feed conversion from the animals are realised. Whilst the tented hurdles offer this choice, it also brings a specific challenge in keeping the pigs clean and comfortable when half of their running area is outside. With recent wet winters fresh in mind, along with straw becoming an increasingly expensive commodity due to the local demand from renewable power stations, owner Steve Hart started looking to mechanise the bedding operation to make it more efficient.
Reasons for choosing a Teagle Tomahawk:
The requirements of a straw spreader were clear, reduce straw usage, provide a deep bed to improve comfort, spread straw evenly around the entire bedded area, and accurately place straw so that it does not contaminate the drinkers.
Local dealer B W Mack (Machinery) Ltd. were keen to get involved in the project and delivered a demonstration Teagle Tomahawk to the farm to ensure that all of the requirements could be met. With their experience in the sector, Teagle offered a machine with a side chute – ideal for achieving the maximum blow distance, whilst offering a low delivery height suitable for the tent doorways.
Following the demonstration Steve ordered 4 machines, two mounted Tomahawk 7100s to offer greater manoeuvrability, and two trailed wide body Tomahawk 8500s, fitted with oversize wheels to overcome the soft ground in winter. All machines were delivered with tailgate extensions to make loading full size Hesston bales easier.
So 12 months after their arrival, how are the machines performing?
John Clark is keen on the approach of being able to deliver exactly the amount of straw that is required using a ‘Little and Often’ approach to provide a comfortable bed, typically achieving ‘an improvement in bedded temperature of around two degrees’. For the smaller pigs which enter the tents at around 4 weeks this is essential, and you can see them climbing ‘into’ the bed of straw. John notes that ‘whilst a similar amount of labour is required, the straw savings are substantial as a typical unit is using between 20 to 40 Hesston bales each week, depending upon the weather conditions’. And from the driver’s point of view; operator Sam at the Lexam unit says ‘You can’t beat it’.