Pioneers in the Piggery30 January 2015
A farming couple in Australia attribute the success of their pig farm to the constant search for innovation and improvement. Focus on pork quality, animal welfare and environmental impact are at the heart of that success, which they want to hand on to the next generation, as they explain to the National Australia Bank (NAB).
Paul and Dale Brosnan, who feature on the January pages of this year’s NAB Agribusiness Calendar, have been pioneers in pig farming for close to 40 years. Today, a combination of cutting-edge technology and innovative sustainable practices has made their brand, BettaPork, synonymous with quality and animal welfare.
In an article NAB's Business Research and Highlights, Dale Brosnan explained: “Three years ago, we could see that a section of the market was pushing for sow stall-free pork so we decided to invest in a brand new 1,300-sow breeder site. By importing the latest equipment from Europe, we were able to exceed market expectations for animal welfare without sacrificing the benefits of a modern production system. We set performance targets with our consultants and staff and carefully monitor performance with a range of new technologies.”
To support their sustainable, whole-of-farm approach, they are building one of the first biogas facilities of its kind in Australia.
Dale explained: “This will turn pig manure and other agricultural by-products into electricity to power the piggery. We’ll also be able to use the residue on the soil as a natural replacement for nitrogen.”
For some years, they have been working to enhance the balance of micronutrients in the soil where they grow grain to feed their pigs.
Dale Brosnan said: “This involved a big upfront investment. We needed different machinery and we knew it would be three to five years before there was a marked difference in the crop but it’s been worth it. We’re now seeing a real difference in the growth rate of our pigs and in the quality of the meat.”
The Brosnans are currently growing about half the grain they need and source the balance from local producers.
“As more farmers adopt the kind of soil planning technology we’re using, the quality of the grains will continue to improve,” said Dale.
Staying Ahead of Change
Paul Brosnan grew up on a stud piggery and, after he and Dale married, they started managing it together.
Dale continued: “It had been very successful but, by 1977, things were starting to change. Studs were getting bigger and smaller ones were going out of business, so we decided to increase the size of the herd and start operating on a commercial basis.”
Over the next two decades, they bought an adjacent block of land, increased their herd to 400 sows and, in the late 1990s, purchased Paul’s parents’ share of the business.
Despite having five children, they managed to invest considerable time, effort and money in research.
Dale Brosnan said: “We went to as many talks and seminars as we could, particularly when international experts were speaking. We also travelled overseas to see what the rest of the world was doing and what technology could be adapted to Australian conditions.
All five Brosnan children are working directors of the business and committed to their parents’ innovative approach.
Dale added: “They’re not people to stand still. As long as we have backing and the market sustains us, the family production system will continue to grow.”
Both Dale and Paul believe it is essential for all farmers to invest in the next generation.
Dale concluded: “If we don’t have a dynamic and resourceful industry, we won’t retain their interest. Our future depends on attracting young people into farming.”