Looking for an extra income stream that can demand low capital investment?

Have you redundant or under-used buildings?

Could staff be better used during seasonal lulls in land or livestock work?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” then pig industry officials believe there’s an opportunity to generate extra farm income and help the UK rebalance domestic pigmeat production that’s slipped to just 73% self-sufficiency since the 1990s.

According to Howard Revell of pig supplier BQP, finishing contracts can integrate easily with many farming systems.

“In particular, those farm businesses with arable land providing access to straw and the ability to use FYM are natural partners.

“For example, BQP is looking for farms which can run straw-based finishing systems to meet welfare requirements set by our customers.

“And, on the plus side for the arable business, opportunities to use muck as a valuable form of soil conditioner and fertiliser.”

Contract finishers need have little or no livestock experience, he says.

“Ideally, we’re looking for commitment, enthusiasm and the ability to run a system 52 weeks a year with help from a team of dedicated fieldsmen.”

In return for providing buildings, labour and water – stock, feed, advice, vet and medicines, stock disposal and haulage is all covered by the pig supplier – producers receive a regular income and access to rolling contracts.

Income of about £25/pig place is typical, offering a 1000 place finisher an income of £25,000 a year, suggested Mr Revell.

So what’s required?

Redundant or under-used buildings can include open straw yards, converted grain stores and machinery sheds, or new facilities – depending on the level of capital available, explains Mr Revell.

“New builds can cost £100-£160 a pig place, but conversion of old building using farm labour can cost much less.”

Most contracts see weaners supplied direct to the finisher’s premises.

These four-week-old piglets weighing 7.5-8kg will then be reared to 100kg liveweight before being selected for slaughter, typically 16-21 weeks later depending of feed conversion and growth rate achieved.

Health status

Bonuses can also be earned according to pig performance on individual units to reflect feed efficiency and accurate selection of finished stock.

Although arrangements of any contract are important, health status of piglets supplied for rearing must also be a critical
consideration, he warns.

“Health status will affect performance, in particular, feed use and efficiency which is by far the largest cost in any pig system.

“When considering contracts get to know where pigs are coming from in terms of health status, who is responsible for what costs and the selection and marketing of finished stock,” he advises.

“In many cases contract finishing is enabling arable units to justify staff year-round when workload and income is often seasonal.

In effect, it’s the new milk cheque,” says Mr Revell.

fwlivestock@rbi.co.uk