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Northern Ireland pig farmer wins top Farmers Weekly Award

10th Oct 2022 / By Alistair Driver

A pig farmer from Northern Ireland has won the prestigious Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year Award.

David Fulton of Carricknakielt Farm, Londonderry, who also picked up the Pig Farmer of the Year Award at a ceremony in London on Thursday night, runs a 180-sow unit at Carricknakielt Farm, with pigs sold on contract to a large processor. Using Danish genetics, he runs a closed herd with all gilt replacements bred on farm.

A switch to Danish genetics six years ago prompted a whole-system overhaul at the birth-to-bacon unit, near Magherafelt, requiring a rethink of everything from breeding to feeding. 

At each stage of this transition, David has carefully monitored the knock-on effect of any changes through rigorous benchmarking analysis, while he also compares his results with other farmers aligned to the same processor through a retailer-producer steering group – in which he ranks top.

Using AHDB finishing and indoor breeding data to monitor his performance, he has recorded a low mortality rate of 5.86% (post-weaning), an average daily liveweight gain of 847g (wean to finish) and antibiotics usage (over the past 12 months) of just 9.67mg/kg, among other performance figures.

Last year, he installed a computerised feeding system in his farrowing houses, which delivers feed in small doses, feeding to appetite and digestion rhythm, avoiding wastage.

NPA chief policy adviser Rebecca Veale was an independent judge in this category. She said: “David’s attention to detail is incredible across all aspects of running his farm, and this shows in his pigs. He embraces the technology that works for him to the absolute maximum and turns any challenge into an opportunity to better the performance of his herd, without compromise.”

The other finalists were:

  • Lizzy Murrell, Railway Farm, Norfolk
  • Matthew Burgess, Manton Forest Farm, Nottinghamshire

More pig farming success

Rob McGregor, who runs 1,450 outdoor sows in two herds for LSB Pigs on 65ha as part of a larger tenanted arable operation in Norfolk, picked up the Manager of the Year Award.

The herds rear weaners for BQP finishers, which supply Waitrose and premium ranges at other retailers and food manufacturers.

Many of the performance indicators for the 1,450 sows are in the top 10% or top-third bracket.

Rob is on a constant mission to improve – pioneering new production methods has been a key part of his work, including the introduction of individual farrowing paddocks, batch farrowing and artificial insemination techniques.

Products adopted throughout the country and overseas include heat-reflective coatings for steel arks, single-piece plastic farrowing arks, clean water drinking tanks and rounded-top plastic farrowing fenders.

Welfare and efficiency considerations were at the heart of his recent decision to move recently to five-week weaning, with promising results in both sows and piglets.

Trials are being conducted with AgBag ensiled sugar beet as an alternative feed, while Rob, who was the 2021 National Pig Awards overall Pig Producer of the Year, is working with the AHDB, Anglia Water and Norfolk Rivers Trust on a green cover crop trial.

Independent judge, Andrew Robinson, manager, Heathcote Farms, Bedfordshire, said: “Rob is a true leader, managing a large enterprise extremely efficiently, with a great approach to staff management, risk management and cost control.

“His innovative approach and involvement in many external projects benefit his business and the wider pig sector, too.”