30 August 2002

When

international outlook pays

By Jonathan Long

A CHANGE of direction and an appreciation of the world-wide industry have allowed Scots producer Mike Forbes to profit from pig production despite the current difficulties.

"UK pig producers must understand what is going on outside the UK if they are to stay in the industry," he told delegates at G E Bakers Summer Symposium, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

Visits to pig producers in other parts of the world allowed Mr Forbes to save 30% on the cost of setting up his 850-sow indoor unit, run in association with PIC, which has replaced an outdoor herd. "Following visits to the US, I was able to source a large proportion of the fixtures and fittings from US suppliers. This has led to large savings in set-up costs."

In redeveloping his pig enterprise, Mr Forbes has also followed lessons from his other farming enterprises, which include strawberries and potatoes, and based all costings on a worst-case scenario. Despite his agreement with PIC, Mr Forbes is aware that it would only need another major disease outbreak for his female production to become irrelevant.

"While finishing pigs is only half of the enterprise, it is conceivable that in the future we would have to finish all of our pigs rather than sell breeding gilts. With this in mind, I based budgets on finished prices not breeding prices," he said.

Despite believing that UK producers must be aware of what is going on in the wider world, Mr Forbes felt that producers should not attempt to draw comparisons with other countries. Producers in countries like the US were working to different requirements and under different systems.

"UK producers will have to achieve a cost of production of 80p/kg deadweight. This figure is not based on what other countries are achieving, but on what UK consumers are willing to pay for the product."

UK supermarkets were not duty bound to stock UK pigmeat. If there was little demand for it then they would stock product from other parts of the world, added Mr Forbes.

With disease a key consideration in UK pig production, he erected his farrowing and rearing unit with the intention of minimising stress and reducing disease risk. All piglets are weaned into large pens where they stay until they leave at 35kg, this limits stress, which Mr Forbes believes is a contributory factor in pig wasting diseases.

"The finishing unit works on an all-in, all-out basis, so every pig must be achieve similar growth rates." he said. &#42

PROFIT FROM PIGS

&#8226 Continual investment.

&#8226 Disease risk prevention.

&#8226 Worst case scenario budget.