To suggest there wouldn’t be a Northern Irish pig industry without Mark Hawe is maybe going a step to far, but there is no doubt that many of the province’s pig farmers would be worse off without his infectious enthusiasm for the sector.
As a pig technologist working with farmers in Co Tyrone and Co Fermanagh on all aspects of commercial pig production, there is no doubt Mark is the driving force behind making change in many pig businesses.
“My focus is on helping farmers improve management of their pig units by encouraging adoption of new technologies and understanding of new regulation. Much of the work in the past few years has involved helping farmers understand nitrate vulnerable zone and integrated pollution prevention and control rules.”
And while much of Mark’s work has focused on the practical issues surrounding pig-keeping, one of his most demonstrable successes has come in establishing the Pig Benchmarking Project six years ago.
“Many produceres were reticent about sharing information but, over time, they’ve seen the value of it and spend a lot of time seeing where they can improve.”
Ever keen to help farmers use modern technology to boost their businesses, Mark has also helped develop an online comparison tool for farmers to compare their latest slaughter data. “This allows them to compare current slaughter stock with previous batches to see where changes in genetics or feed stocks have impacted on pig performance and farm profits.”
Clearly working with farmers is where Mark’s heart lies and it’s no surprise to learn he’s often found organising evening meetings on relevant topics. As a final string to his bow, Mark has been involved since its inception with Progressive Lean Pigs, a pig buying and marketing group.
“I don’t get involved with contract negotiations, but I do advise on what different contract terms will mean for profits and help farmers meet specification, as the group works with a number of different processors, so matching pigs to processor requirements is essential.”