Winner of the Excellence in Higher Farm Animal Welfare - Pigs Award
Of all the farm animals Ben Thompsett could have chosen, pigs were at the bottom of his list.
His first taste of working with animals was at 13 when he helped out a local gamekeeper. Then came more work experience, harvesting on a nearby arable estate.
At 16, Ben went to Easton and Otley College to study gamekeeping. Throughout his time at college, Ben worked on the college farm helping out with dairy and beef cattle.
“When I finished my course,” says Ben “I had a job lined up gamekeeping in Scotland. But then a fellow student told me about a vacancy on an outdoor pig farm locally. I had always regarded pigs as rather noisy and smelly and had no real desire to work with them. How wrong I was".
"That first job completely changed my view. I really came to love them. They are so interesting once you learn to ‘read’ them. So inquisitive and intelligent, especially the piglets”.
Now at the tender age of 23, Ben leads a team of six, managing an RSPCA Assured outdoor breeding unit with 1,500 sows for Norfolk Free Range.
“Young stockmen are hard to find”, said Mark Robertson, an RSPCA Assured assessor, “and to see a young British lad so interested in working with pigs, and so willing to learn to be the best he can be is great to see. It’s also really pleasing to see people not brought up in agriculture, getting a chance to prove you don’t have to be born into farming to be good at farming”.
What does Ben enjoy the most about his work?
“Doing the best for the pigs. I like to make sure everything on the unit is tip-top and that the pigs are kept to the highest possible welfare standards.”
Does Ben see himself staying with the pigs? “Yes, I can’t imagine working with any other farm animals now. Even when the sun is blazing or the rain is lashing down, I can’t imagine a better career”.
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