An Aberdeenshire producer has been named UK Pig Farmer of the Year 2013 at the Farmers Weekly awards.
Ian Davidson, who farms at Mosside, near Inverurie is the first Scottish farmer to have won the national award. Judges said it was Mr Davidson’s “innovative thinking and confidence to try things differently in order the get results” which made him stand out.
Mr Davidson and his wife Alison farm 182 hectares and runs 300 sows on the farm where the enthusiastic and committed team includes unit manager Phil Adam and farrowing unit supervisor, Helen Cruikshank, along with tractorman, Stuart Lee.
According to the Mr Davidson, who is delighted with the win, having a strong team is the secret to the business’ success.
Alan Ward, Quality Meat Scotland’s Pig Development Manager, congratulated Mr Davidson and his team on lifting the title.
“Mosside is a very well run unit and a major part of this is down to Ian Davidson’s willingness to adopt new technology and try new ideas to improve his business performance.
“Another very significant contributor to the unit’s success is the team spirit and collective enthusiasm to drive the business forward,” said Mr Ward.
Working with his committed team who are passionate about doing their best for the herd, Ian has created a business that has continued to flourish and is keenly focused on developing a strong, long-term business.
Mr Davidson took over the farm aged 18 years old and pig numbers grew steadily with the creation of a fully integrated system where slurry was used to fertilise the farm's crops which in turn feed the animals.
In recent years Mr Davidson and his team have undertaken a major overhaul to their farm system – from the pigs’ feed to their management system. The move came in response to spiraling input costs and falling pig prices in recent years,
With the help of consultant Paul Wright, pig manager Phil Adam and farrowing unit superviser Helen Cruickshank Mr Davidson also introduced a series of enhanced management strategies to improve and simplify the pig-rearing system.
Weaning up to 160 pigs a week, the animals are separated into batches of 40 and to reduce stress they stay in those groups until they are sold - a move that has led to increased growth rates while reducing staff workloads.
Growth rates have been further helped by bringing in new genetics that have enabled the removal of antibiotic use. Nutrition has been adapted to maximise lean growth time so the pigs receive their specific mineral requirement and no inputs are wasted.
It has had an impressive effect, with feed conversion ratios hitting 2.75:1 including sow feed, making the unit perform in the top 5% in the UK. Meat sold a sow has also reached 2.1t, while litter sizes have increased by 1.5 pigs a sow to 27.44 pigs a sow each year.
Mr Davidson’s next aim is to add value to the pigs through the farm's Mossies Pork catering brand, which he plans to develop with son Russell, who has just become a partner in the business.
Success in the meat industry is very much in the family, as Mr Davidson’s nephew, Inverurie butcher John Davidson, was named butcher of year in 2012.
The Davidsons are also in the final planning stages for a 225kW wind turbine that will be used to power the pig units and to replace older buildings with porta-units to further streamline operations.
Ian is adamant that looking at efficiencies has been key to improving prices for his pork, as well as making him and his team better producers.