Future proofing pigs

With technology and management practices constantly evolving, keeping abreast of the latest developments can be difficult. But it will be possible to find it all in one place when the British Pig & Poultry Fair takes place in May, showcasing the latest technology, while sharing innovative practice with producers so they can plan for the future.
calendar icon 23 April 2018
clock icon 5 minute read

Forward planning and making the most of the latest innovations are the hallmarks of a successful pig business. This year's Pig and Poultry Fair promises to provide producers a catalogue of exhibitors that will no doubt have some ideas for future-proofing your systems.

We asked three pig producers for their views on what the future holds and what they hope to get out of the event:

  • Gareth Virgo (GV), production manager on a 620-sow farrow to finish unit at J E Porter and Sons, Lincolnshire;
  • Kate Moore (KV), director at Pockthorpe Hall, East Yorkshire, which has 1,700 indoor sows and 1,500 outdoor sows, farrow to slaughter;
  • Richard Mellor (RM), director and unit manager at R and C Mellor, which has 950 outdoor breeding sows on contract for BQP.

Left to right: Kate Moore, Gareth Virgo and Richard Mellor.

How do you see the outlook for your pig business in 2018/2019?

GV: The main concern for the future is the stability of prices. The market is fluctuating – from record highs, it is dropping fast. I hope to see a plateau of good prices for a while.

KM: We are fairly confident, with demand for Freedom Foods growing and growing.

RM: Hopefully carry on moving forward as we have for the past 18 months – increase production, plan for the future and invest.

What do you see as the greatest challenges ahead?

GV: There is a challenge in attracting and retaining good staff and people in the industry. The rewards are there and there is a clear-cut career path, but producers have to pay well to get the best people.

KM: The greatest challenge is to produce a pig as cheaply as we can.

RM: Brexit is the main thing, as any agreements need to be right, so we do not end up with lots of cheap imports or lower welfare pork.

What was the last investment you made and why?

KM: Our last investment was a fully slatted finisher building, so we could find out how much it costs to finish a pig on slats compared to straw.

RM: We ordered 60 new farrowing arks in November, with 20 due this month, 20 in April and 20 in June. We may get bigger ones next to accommodate sow size as we are averaging 14 piglets a litter.

What are you looking to invest in next?

GV: The farrowing system, to keep up with modern trends.

RM: There is a lot of emphasis on clean water. We are looking to put more clean water tanks into the farrowing and dry sow paddocks.

What is the most useful piece of technology on your farm?

KM: We use a lot of technology on farm, for keeping records; water recording; feed intake and feeding.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?

KM: Know your customer.

RM: To go into pigs earlier than I did. Also, to not be so blinkered, look at the bigger picture and not be afraid to give it a go.

Why will you be attending the 2018 Fair?

GV: I will be looking at new, innovative products that can make big savings, as well as networking and looking at what others are doing.

KM: I will be looking at free farrowing and how it is developing, as well as for any new technology.

RM: We first saw the clean water systems from John Harvey at the Fair, which we are planning to invest in next.

What would you say is the most valuable aspect of the Fair for you?

GV: Benchmarking for both pig and poultry. I always come away having learnt something new.

KM: Networking. The Fair is always a good chance to catch up with the industry and see lots of people.

RM: It is good to see new innovations, both indoors and outdoors.

If you had one wish for your business what would it be?

KM: That a retailer would believe in high welfare standards and pay more for a finished pig.

Register for Pig and Poultry 2018 here

Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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