Creating the foundations to support a healthy finish

Owen Singer from Penleigh Farm in Frome owns a traditional family-run butchers selling produce from his herd of native British pigs. During increasingly challenging times for the sector, Owen discusses his experience of maintaining good quality nutrition and a happy home for the best possible finish.

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Smallholder Pig
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The picture at Penleigh Farm can be seen across the UK as pig farmers face enormous pressure from multiple angles, compounded further by rocketing feed prices with the war in Ukraine playing havoc on the global raw material markets. Scaling back to 12 sows, Penleigh Farm are committed to their ethos of producing the best quality pork from their farm and selling locally through their Frome-based butchers.

Since starting out in 2004 with Welsh sows and boars, Penleigh Farm have continued breeding from British pure breeds, now opting for Saddlebacks and Oxford Sandy and Blacks, both producing meat of a very high quality and flavour. Owen and his team are dedicated to giving their pigs the best life to support their healthy growth and the finest meat product.

Owen says: ‘We put care and attention into every stage of our pigs’ lives to ensure they are stimulated, comfortable and happy. Piglet welfare is at the heart of everything we do and it’s always so rewarding to see the hard work pay off with a high-quality meat at finish.’

Like humans’ pigs need comfort and shelter as well as access to fresh water and a well-balanced diet to support good health. Good quality nutrition has a huge impact on sow health and getting their piglets off to the best start in life, but it is often underestimated how consistent high-quality nutrition along with the right environment can make all the difference to the growing stage.

Penleigh Farm utilise Farmgate Feeds Sow Nut and Weaner all the way through their pigs’ lives and keep the piglets with their mothers until 10 weeks which ensures they are familiar with the feed and continue to grow healthily post-weaning.

Owen explains: ‘We have found in the past that weaning piglets too early can cause them to stagnate for 3-4 weeks, but the Farmgate Feeds Sow and Weaner range has been great, and we’ve never had any issues with weaning. It really suits our regime and supports efficient feed conversion so we can be confident that we have a quality product to sell in our butchers.’

The early finishing stage is one of rapid lean growth. High-quality nutrition supports this growth and encourages the production of lean uniform meat whilst avoiding excess fat deposition. The added Omega 3 in the Farmgate Sow and Weaner range brings many benefits to a sow and her piglets throughout their growth. Omega 3 fatty acids are involved in the structure and growth of all cells in the animal and as result, there is good evidence to support the important role it has in contributing to healthy litter sizes and weaning weights. This then supports more efficient growth and feed conversion in the four weeks post-weaning.

Finely balanced nutrition is critical for efficient feed conversion, but we should also remember that a feed will have the most effective results when we support a pig’s overall wellbeing. Something that Owen and the Penleigh Farm team are passionate about:

‘Working with pigs for nearly 20 years’ we know how important a happy home is to ensure our pigs thrive, grow healthily and produce the best meat. For us, human contact is key; we interact with them daily – they love a scratch behind their ears and on their backs. We also add lots of interest to their space including plenty of straw, scratching posts and plenty of cardboards boxes which they love to play with.’

Adding interest to the pig’s environment helps mimic their natural environment by encouraging rooting, foraging, and exploring. Foraging helps to build an appetite by helping to increase a pigs activity level, which burns calories, keeps body weights in check and promotes the development of lean muscle.

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