It was great to see a Yorkshire lad win the National Pig Awards Young Pig Farmer of the Year. Matt Donald, who won the award, works on his family’s farm at West Rounton, near Northallerton.
People like to think of family farms as cosy places where people can work in an old-fashioned, relaxed way. Nothing could be further from the truth. Farmers must work in a highly technical, capital-intensive, global market – and family farms are no different.
Therefore, Matt was delighted to win the award. He said it was the reward for two years of research.
He is the third generation of his family to keep pigs, and the time had come to update their buildings. Matt spent two years, and two trips abroad, to investigate what would be the best for what would be a big investment for the family.
Matt’s pigs are cossetted, with every attention paid to their comfort and well-being. Piglets rest on heated pads, their mothers are kept in clean, dry, well-ventilated buildings. He pays careful attention to their feed, constantly watches and listens, alert to any signs that a pig may be ‘off colour’.
The new buildings that Matt chose incorporate high tech features such as in-place spray cleaning, and a computerised feeding system that warns if any animal is ‘off’ her food.
Being off her food may be the first sign of illness in a sow, explains Matt. “There are lots of pigs in Yorkshire, and therefore lots of disease risk.”
He pays attention to keeping those diseases away from his pigs. Pigs have a traditional reputation for being messy, but Matt does everything to keep his pigs clean. He and others who work on the farm regularly wash overalls and boots. Visitors are issued with clean overalls and footwear, as their own boots may inadvertently carry infection.
To minimise the risk of picking up unknown bugs, Matt does not go onto other pig farms. When he went on his fact-finding trips, he spent a quarantine period away from his own pigs before he was allowed to visit another farm.
All this attention to detail matters. “To compete at a global level,” he says, “You must be on top of your game.”
Long may Matt stay there.
Read more about Matt Donald and his pigs in Dalesman magazine, July 2018 issue
Read about Matt’s award at Pig World Magazine