19 May 2000

Efficient neednt fear the pig cycle

THE pig cycle is here to stay, but future prospects for efficient producers are not bleak, according to an Exeter University economist. Speaking at the Pig and Poultry Fair, Andrew Sheppard predicted that herd sizes will increase sharply.

"The numbers of small and medium businesses are much reduced and this may mean 100-sow or 1000-finisher one-man units become a thing of the past."

But larger units can mean greater efficiency, said Mr Sheppard. "Breeding performance is improving and use of labour is more efficient. The least efficient have left the industry. I know a producer who achieves 30 pigs/sow a year with a 450-sow herd which shows what is possible.

"There must be no slowing of genetic improvement and more attention must be paid to housing and nutrition to maximise production," he added.

Contract production – in decline since the industry crisis began – will also increase, believes Mr Sheppard. "More than 30% of finished pigs and 17% of sows used to be produced on contract but far fewer pigs are produced in this way now, however, it will rebound.

"For producers who dont want to commit to owning pigs – possibly with retirement looming – but who have the straw and buildings, it could provide the ideal solution, avoiding unnecessary capital expenditure," he said.

&#8226 Full Pig and Poultry Fair report starts on page 46.