Farmer Focus : Chris Fogden 17/12/04

IT IS definitely a strange world. Pig producers are rewarded for a product with as little back fat as possible, with no incentive for lean meat yield, even by rewarding good conformation – as it is with cattle and sheep.

One processor has now installed an Autofom machine, from Denmark, for accurate measurement of carcass quality. But it is taking months to calibrate it, which makes some a bit suspicious.

The strange thing is that there is now a world shortage of pork fat. We are told to produce for the market, but when the market sends us confused signals we have no choice but to continue with what we know. There must be some producers who remember producing heavy hogs, as required by Walls more than 40 years ago.

The fat shortage, along with scarcity of supply and demand from Eastern Europe, has led to good cull sow prices, making a big cull sow worth more than a maiden gilt to replace her. For this reason, I have ordered 350 replacement gilts, to boost our homebred supply and bring our herd age down.

The gilts are arriving in batches of 50, during weaning weeks. They will be served by AI on their third heat, seven weeks post-delivery. Their first heat being, like clockwork, one week after arrival. We plan to only do anything slightly stressful to them such as tagging, vaccination, moving or mixing, during a weaning week to keep them cycling at the correct time.

I am pleased for Tesco to see its profits are up by about double its increase in turnover and that it is on course to a 2bn profit. I would be even more pleased if it remembered who have made this possible, both producer and manufacturer. I doubt it will, but it must remember nothing is forever and balances of power do change.