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Members of Pig Group Study Agriculture in the US

09 December 2013

US - Members of a highly-successful Pig Producers’ Group operated by AtlasFram, the UK’s foremost farmers’ co-operative, have visited the United States on a nine-day, 3000-mile tour to study agriculture in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado.

Jonathan Green, Simon Watchorn, Tom Childerhouse and Christopher Fogden, who collectively farm more than 7000 sows in Suffolk and Norfolk, were accompanied by Nigel Armes of Crown Milling at Kenninghall in Norfolk, which supplies feed to AtlasFram members, together with Gary Pleasance, who organises the Pig Group and is Managing Director of Framtrade, AtlasFram’s non-member trading division.

Formed in 1998, the AtlasFram Pig Group now has 12 members with 13,900 sows, mostly on outdoor units in Norfolk and Suffolk. Collective purchasing of feed has significantly helped them through the troughs of pig cycles over the last 15 years, while those who belong to the wheat buying pool saved £15/t compared with spot market prices in the nine months to June 2013, collectively reducing their feed costs by £66,000. AtlasFram also purchases veterinary medicines, generating further significant savings.

Outlining the reasons for the visit, Gary Pleasance stated: "Our members are well aware that a number of countries which produce pig meat could threaten their survival. Our study tours ensure that they keep up to date with farming practices globally and learn how they might be able to improve their own businesses. Previously we have visited China, Brazil, Switzerland, the US and countries within Europe, particularly Holland and Belgium.

Jonathan Green, who has 4000 sows in Suffolk, states: "We are in such a competitive industry that it is vital to know what is happening globally. Pig Group members know each other well and co-operate closely, so there is always someone to compare notes with, but every tour provides new ideas and information."

The tour started in Nebraska, the largest commercial red meat producing state in the USA, with a visit to the ADM soybean crushing plant in Lincoln, which was organised by ADM Direct, AtlasFram’s crop marketing partner in the UK. Michael Irons, ADM Oilseeds’ Commercial Manager, outlined the agricultural industry in Nebraska and hosted a guided tour of the plant, which has the capacity to store 1,500,000 bushels of soybeans and handles up to 500 vehicles bringing in 13,500 tons daily. The site has its own railhead and can ship soybeans, meal, oil and other by-products from the crushing process directly to ports in the western USA. It also incorporates a co-gen power plant which is fuelled by coal that is open-cast mined in neighbouring Wyoming.

Heading out of Lincoln, the group visited a 3500-acre farm belonging to brothers Rich and Tim Bartek, who explained that although agriculture has been through tough times, higher commodity prices and the extensive use of irrigation has made it very profitable recently. This was evident by the new grain silos on nearly every farm.

The group continued north east to West Point in County Cumins, where they visited a mixed farm producing soybeans, corn, cattle and pigs, then on to Prinz Grain, a fourth-generation family business which combines 1.25 million bushels of corn and soybean storage with a feed manufacturing facility producing customers’ formulations. At Fremont they visited Brothers Feed, a newly-constructed blending plant which produces bespoke rations - including a soybean/corn-based substitute – then travelled to the ADM Columbus corn facility, the world’s third-largest corn ethanol plant, which processes over five million tonnes of corn annually. With storage for three million bushels, the site receives up to 700 lorry loads (15,000 tons) every day and can produce a million gallons of ethanol per day, the co-products including wet distillers’ grains, alcohol and corn syrup.

After a 200-mile drive west the group arrived at Adams Land & Cattle Company in Broken Bow, a 700-acre ‘feed lot’ with 85,000 cattle and an on-site feed mill producing 2000 tons of feed per day. The enterprise was building its corn store for the year and six John Deere 9460 tractors were being used to level the ground corn. The group continued north-west for 325 miles, stopping at a number of farms en-route to South Dakota, where a freak winter storm had left the area without power and killed over 100,000 cattle. At George Farms, a dairy and cattle farm in Wyoming, they met Scott George, President of the National Cattlemans’ Beef Association of the USA and saw crops of pinto beans, corn and sugar beet, as well as beef cattle. The trip concluded with a scenic drive to Denver, Colorado.

Gary Pleasance stated: "Our latest study tour provided a fascinating insight into the current state of US agriculture. AtlasFram’s strong crop marketing alliance with ADM Direct allowed us put together an informative programme which provided our members with a wealth of information."

ThePigSite News Desk

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