WHAT THE JUDGES SAY
“With a lot of focus, hard work and determination, the Chafers have established a thriving and profitable pig business with just a £10,000 investment. Their genetic line means they have phenomenal production figures.”
If there is one couple who know what they want and will achieve it, it is Lee and Geraldine Chafer. Sheer hard work and determination has allowed them to turn an initial £10,000 investment five years ago into a profitable and thriving 300-sow farrow-to-finish business.
Their initial investment was in a 1,200-sow outdoor herd producing weaners for Tulip.
However, being tied into a strict contract and with a 90-minute commute each way from the farm, the couple decided to sell it and establish their own outdoor sow herd.
In 2018 they set up a 300-sow outdoor herd at Grange Farm – a 28ha farm they started renting back in 2016.
They built an additional 1,600 weaner spaces to finish all the pigs themselves.
15 live-born piglets a litter
12 Number of pigs weaned a litter
96-100 Conception rate (%)
2% Finishing mortality
2.24 Feed conversion ratio
700g Daily liveweight gain (7-45kg)
The five-week batch-farrowing system has been designed with the intention of labour efficiency and staff needs in mind. Currently, only Lee and Geraldine work on the farm, with some relief help at busy periods.
All dry sows are fed with electronic sow feeders, meaning they only need to go into the field once a week to feed.
Many outdoor units have failed to get electronic sow feeders to work, but the Chafers’ commitment to training gilts to use the feeders means they work well here.
Lee says: “The theory of electronic sow feeders are great. It means you are not driving a tractor around and disturbing the land.
“It manages their weight, as they are fed a specific ration, and it saves time, as you only have to fill the feeder once every seven to 10 days.”
All gilts and sows are EID tagged, so they can be individually fed using the electronic sow feeders. Lactating sows are fed using ad-lib hoppers in individual paddocks that only have to be filled every two weeks.
The sows are housed in plastic, spherical pig arcs that are designed to outlast wooden and metal huts. Furthermore, the spherical shape makes them easier to clean, as they don’t have corners.
When the pair established the herd, they opted for the highly prolific Genesus breed line, which combines Large White and Landrace genetics.
Growth rates in the finishing herd are phenomenal. Piglets are growing 700g a day from weaning until 45kg and their growth ability means they are selling pigs at 14 weeks weaned at 110kg deadweight.
Feed conversion in the finishing herd stands at 2.24 and mortality about 2%.
Their prolificacy also means they have high born-alive figures, with some litters containing up to 15 piglets.
Conception rates and farrowing rates are also high, at between 96-100%.
All pigs are finished inside on straw bedding and are sold as RSPCA-approved, outdoor-bred pork to Karro Food Group. Their contract with Karro means all pigs must have entire tails and no teeth clipping is allowed.
Each finishing pig has more than 1m space, which is more than the RSPCA Freedom Food standards of 0.8m per finished pig.
Although the business is still in its infancy, Lee and Geraldine are already looking at how to take the enterprise forward.
In the next two to four years, they aim to be wholesaling their own product to add value to their pigs.
Lee says: “We don’t have a plan in place yet, but we want to be adding value to our product and not have all our eggs in one basket.”