19 May 1995

Stall ban just tip of iceberg?

ONE specialist operator worried by future prospects was David Overton, Wildemere Farm, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

He runs a 400-sow farrow-to-finish business and lost money last year despite an output of 26 pigs reared a sow a year.

Mr Overton said: "The job has got tighter and I ran into loss after taking on another unit three years ago. I am just back into modest profit but the cost of meeting a raft of new regulations and other overheads are rising fast. I also face the cost of sow stall conversion. One of my worries is that unilateral UK legislation on sow stalls might just be the start of further animal welfare pressure with farrowing crates next on the agenda.

"Specialist pig units without alternative arable acre income, including set-aside, are now under intense pressure and the banks are totally unsympathetic. "It is the progressive specialists who have set the pace in pig production over the years who are being hammered the hardest," says Mr Overton.

"I would be happy to fund sow stall replacement costs provided the big supermarket buyers would state clearly that they will offer adequate welfare friendly premiums on pigmeat to help us recoup our on-costs. But to date I see no firm promises."