PIGS have made a comeback at a York agricultural college.
Askham Bryan College has re-introduced pigs after a gap of almost two decades and the commercial gilts are settling in well their new home.
Lecturer Emma Davison said: “We already have a strong livestock base with beef, dairy cattle and sheep so the arrival of the pigs completes the range, ensuring our students have a broad base from which to expand their technical knowledge and practical skills. This also provides an opportunity for students to work on a business plan around pig production.”
The college specialises in courses for agriculture and land management, from diploma level through to degrees. Pigs were last kept at the college in 1999 but were phased out following a downturn in the market.
Now the college is “testing the water'' by introducing a small number on a project base. The pigs will be kept for 12 or 13 weeks, and then sold as bacon, potentially just after Easter. If the project is successful, a decision will made regarding continuing with further stock.
Students are currently hard at work and are fully involved in the animals' husbandry – including the feeding regime, health and welfare, monitoring the live weight gain and feed conversion efficiency as well as analysing their on-going progress culminating in examining the commercial outcome.
Miss Davison said: “An additional benefit is that this is a live commercial initiative so students who perhaps have not had experience of this sector can gain an insight into a key part of the farming industry and it will potentially assist in their career decisions.”
Competing at the region's agricultural shows is already part of the students' calendar so working with pigs, as well as cattle and sheep, has been added to their timetable as they start to hone their pig handling skills.
Their first test of the year will come on March 24 when they compete in the college's stockmanship competition.