19 May 2000

Top margins are possible with organic herds

DESPITE the constraints, organic production could prove a profitable enterprise, with possible gross margins of £290 a sow and £10.60 a finisher pig.

Speaking at a Talking pigs seminar, Aberdeen University lecturer Sandra Edwards said that these gross margins equalled the conventional average over the past 10 years. But in the last year no conventional producer had made margins that high.

These figures are based on selling 16.8 weaners of 32kg a sow a year at £1.65/kg, and finishers of 60kg carcass weight at £2.05p/kg.

But organic pig production has many constraints, such as weaning pigs at a minimum of six-weeks-old and no routine antibiotic use. These constraints result in lower efficiencies, with lower output a sow and higher prices for organic feed.

But MAFF, PIC and Tesco-funded research being carried out by Aberdeen University, ADAS, Eastbrook Farms and Eco-Stopes Consultancy hopes to address the lack of data on organic production efficiency.

This will answer questions such as are the right breeds of pig being used and could forage reduce sow feed costs.

"But before converting to organic production, make sure you have a market. The Danes have exceeded their organic demands and dont have a premium market in their home country," warned Dr Edwards. &#42