Working in a sector with the technology to meet every aspect of your animals‘ performance and wellbeing is a major appeal of pig farming for Jason Palmer.
“I think every pig farmer would say the best part of it is working with the pigs, because they are such enjoyable animals to be around, ”says Jason, who looks after 500 sows at Dunsandel, Canterbury.
“I’ve worked with pigs for a long time. My father had a 100-sow outdoor herd and my uncle kept pigs too. The technology has advanced significantly since then, providing better efficiencies and improved individual care of each pig.”
For Jason, that technology includes a computerised feeding system.
“Each sow’s feeding program is controlled by an electronic identification tag in its ear.
“That provides a means of communication with the sow and we can manage the feed precisely to each animal’s requirement and change it as their dietary needs change through gestation.
“We mill all our own feed here too, using local wheat and barley, which is supplemented with soya meal, vitamins and minerals. We have eight different diets, which are distributed automatically to different locations around the piggery.”
A range of heating and ventilation systems are also used to meet the needs of different ages of pigs.
Weaners and growers are raised in insulated rooms with slatted floors and automated ventilation to ensure the optimum temperature is achieved. The maternity unit is fitted with individual heated pads maintained at 37 degrees for the piglets to lie on. Gas heating is used to top up any deficiencies in temperature in the nursery rooms.
All effluent from the piggery is pumped to a holding pond and then spread on to the surrounding dairy farm to utilise the nutrients for growing high quality pasture.
Jason gained a degree in agriculture at Lincoln University before spending 13 years working for PIC NZ, New Zealand’s largest pig breeding company, as a Business Development Manager. He and Business Partner Ray Seebeck set up Southern Pork in 2012.
“Genetics and feed are a big part of producing quality pork,” says Jason. “It is essential to buy replacement breeding stock from a reputable supplier with high health standards. The higher the health, the better the animal’s performance and welfare.
“The rest of it is diet, providing optimal conditions and minimising stress – contented pigs produce better quality meat and are more productive. We choose to house our pigs indoors because it suits the land we are on but it also allows us to provide the best care for them, with automated temperature control and stock protected from the weather.”
There is a four-strong stockperson team in the piggery and all have been trained to work with pigs in ways that minimise stress on the stockperson and the animal.
Away from the maternity unit, animals live in groups and movement of animals around the piggery is kept to a minimum.
Jason’s very proud of the end product – “I’m pretty partial to sweet and sour pork”.
He is committed to making a further contribution to the industry as a Director of NZPork.
“If you are able to, I think it’s important to get more involved with finding out what makes your industry tick. It’s a way of giving back, but it’s also a good way for me to gain more experience around governance while also bringing my business development experience into play.”