A special scholarship to attract new people into the pig indistry is now in its ninth year – having seen 35 students spend a work placement in the sector.
For students, the scholarship provides a clear career pathway and showcases the dynamic nature and variety of roles available throughout the supply chain. Students regularly find employment with their placement company after graduation.
The Pig Industry Scholarship programme was developed by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, National Pig Association and Harper Adams University.
Attracting new entrants and inspiring the younger generation to pursue a career in the pig industry is key if the industry is to remain successful says Jen Waters, AHDB head of knowledge exchange for pork.
“For businesses, it offers first access to a huge pool of talent and an opportunity to appraise students during what is effectively a year-long interview. It means relationships can form between students and businesses early in their studies, leading to a continued interest and desire to remain in the industry.”
Kerri Coffey, 23 from County Down, Northern Ireland, is partway through her honours degree in agriculture with animal science at Harper Adams University. She is currently on placement with Bedfordia Farms in Bedfordshire.
An integrated farming and land management business, Bedfordia is involved in livestock, arable, grain laboratory, grain storage and estate management, and takes a modern and professional approach to farming.
Before joining Harper Adams, Kerri gained a range of farm experience from across Northern Ireland, England and France, as well as working as a quality assurance auditor for a poultry factory.
Her Pig Industry Scholarship placement will provide her with in-depth knowledge and practical experience of the pig industry as she spends six months on farm with Bedfordia Farms and a further six months with AHDB.
Since joining the team at Bedfordia Farms in August, Ms Coffey says she has been working on one of the breeding units. She says she was thrilled when I was awarded the AHDB and Bedfordia Pig Industry Scholarship.
“Before studying at Harper Adams, I was a dairy girl at heart, with the sole intent of wanting to develop my career in the dairy industry. However, in my first year of university we were taught about pig production and visited the Harper Adams pig unit.
“I had never experienced pig production before, but I absolutely loved it and quickly signed up for more sessions on the unit. In my second year, I decided to follow my heart and applied for a placement in the pig industry.
“I have already learnt so much. I am processing piglets by myself, I can carry out artificial insemination (AI) and vaccinate pigs, and I have been helping to wean piglets and assist at farrowing. All of which is a lot more than what I could do when I started.”
Ms Coffey’s role at Bedfordia Farms includes helping to plan, organise and carry out trials relating to pig health, welfare and nutrition. The first trial relates to finding a replacement for zinc oxide in pig feed, as zinc will be removed from diets in the near future.
The farm is also trialling the use of a seaweed supplement to see whether it might be able to replace zinc in the diet. And for the second half of he placement, Ms Coffey will be spending six months with AHDB’s Pork team.
“One of the main projects that I will be involved with is developing case studies focusing on free farrowing systems. The conventional farrowing crates used in indoor pig production restrain sows to protect the piglets for the duration of the lactation stage.
“When sows are not lactating, they are housed in small, unrestrained groups. However, in free farrowing systems, sows are not confined during farrowing or lactation.
“I will be looking at the cost of implementing free farrowing systems, measuring key performance indicators, and finding out how farmers have adapted from using conventional farrowing crates to free farrowing systems.”