New technology, staffing and increasing margins are three key areas on which pig producers are focusing, according to a recent straw poll by the British Pig & Poultry Fair.
And that’s why keeping up to date is so important.
Investments have the potential to shape the future of a business, so it is vital to get advice and to network with fellow producers to make the right decision.
Melanie Jenkins speaks to three pig producers about their current investments and what they are most looking forward to at the fair.
- Richard Knox, partner at Tor Pigs, Devon. 300 indoors sows, breeder to finisher, selling some weaners. 2013 Farmers Weekly Pig Farmer of the Year finalist.
- Steve Tuer, farmer at Steve Tuer Farms, Yorkshire. 1,200 indoor sow breeding and finishing unit.
- Stephen Thompson, Povey Farm, Yorkshire. 210 indoor sows and finishing unit. Producing his own pork, bacon, ham and sausages under the Moss Valley brand. 2017 Farmers Weekly Pig Farmer of the Year finalist.
What was your latest investment?
R Knox: Individual sow feeders for the dry sows, as they are an easy and good way to feed.
The next investment will depend on where we decide to take the business: whether we cut back on sows and sell pigs heavier, sell more weaners or put up new buildings.
S Tuer: A borehole and water pumping system for the main finishing unit. We installed it to guarantee quantity, pressure, and to bring costs down.
S Thompson: We have spent three years refurbishing buildings after a farm fire. Next, we will put up a new finisher shed to take pigs to a heavier weight and finish more.
What is your most useful piece of technology?
R Knox: The automatic grower and finisher feeders as they save labour.
S Tuer: Our management software for the breeding unit. It allows me to monitor performance easily.
S Thompson: The computer for recording data and keeping on top of performance, and the JCB for manual jobs.
How do you see the outlook for 2018/2019?
S Tuer: Cautiously optimistic – I still intend to improve and increase performance.
S Thompson: It is pretty positive, I would say.
What do you think is the biggest hurdle?
R Knox: To maintain a decent margin and encourage new blood into the industry. Without young people, the industry will die.
S Thompson: Staffing is a big thing, whether for a pig unit or an abattoir. There is a lot of foreign labour that cannot be replaced overnight.
How can producers secure labour after the UK leaves the EU?
S Tuer: Working in the pig industry is not seen as a professional career – the industry needs to professionalise itself, with more apprenticeships and training schemes.
S Thompson: Get local labour if you can. Try talking to schools and doing some local publicity.
Why will you be attending the 2018 fair?
R Knox: I will be looking for innovations and new ideas that will benefit my business – this is the place to see them.
S Tuer: It will be good to have the whole industry in one place, to capture the mood and pick up new ideas.
S Thompson: To talk to building manufacturers. I usually end up buying something.
What is your one wish for your business?
R Knox: That the pig price would rise to £2/kg, so I could pay off my debts and retire happily.
S Thompson: Sustained profitability. It’s nice to invest because we can, not because we have to.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
S Tuer: To learn how to communicate better.
S Thompson: To embrace technology – know what is available and be ready to use it.