Job profile: What’s it like to be a pig unit manager?

If you want a hands-on job working with animals, then you might consider working in the pig sector.

There are many career opportunities in this sector, which has been at the forefront of efforts to promote skills development and continued learning in UK farming.

Farmers Weekly asked pig unit manager Darren Kent to explain what his job is like. 

Name Darren Kent

Age 27

Job title Pig unit manager

Company T Pitt Farms

Sum up your job in a sentence or two:

I am responsible for the successful production of breeding gilts that are sold to the breeding company Rattlerow.

This involves managing a small team on a high-health, high-performance three-week batch farrowing-to-finishing unit. 

See also: Job profile: What’s it like to be a tractor sales instructor

What does this involve day to day?

Each morning I take care of feeding and routine health checks for the sows and piglets in the farrowing rooms, while my team carry out these checks and organise the bedding of the growers and finisher stock.

After the daily jobs have been carried out, I set out the weekly plan to the team – which will be farrowing, weaning or serving – to ensure these tasks are carried out to high production and welfare standards.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

A successful farrowing week. The time I spend in the farrowing rooms can result in a highly productive weaning week, which is very rewarding.

Good strong piglets – and plenty of them – set up the unit for great production results. Equally rewarding is seeing the newer members of the team progress under my guidance.

What can be the downside?

I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve high production targets, but as these are animals, not everything can be controlled.

People management is new to me and can be a challenge. As with any animal-related job, it is not 9-5, so it can be difficult to switch off.

What percentage of your job is office based?

I would say about 10%. I carry out the necessary data input and analyse the reports to see where we can improve, but I get stuck in with all manual tasks on the pig unit.

What skills and qualifications are essential to do the job?

I have a degree in agriculture, but I would say on-farm experience, a stockman’s eye and attention to detail are crucial for this role.

The stockman courses provided by AHDB Pork allowed me to use this training back on the unit to make improvements.

What experience did you have before starting?

I worked on a local beef and arable farm while at school, college and university. This gave me invaluable practical experience and the right attitude and mindset to succeed in this industry.

My love for pigs started during my final year at university, where I completed my dissertation on the university pig unit.

What other careers did you consider?

To stay within academia and become a lecturer at an agricultural college or university. Also, the dairy industry always intrigued me.

What tips/advice would you give to someone wanting a similar role?

Gain as much experience as you can on a number of pig units to gather an overall understanding of the pig industry. Once you have a position, continuous training is a must.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

To concentrate on the breeding section and become overall breeding or farrowing manager on a large-scale unit.

Give us an idea of the salary a new starter might expect?

A trainee stockman should expect to receive £18,000-£21,000/year, but as it’s not 9-5, hours and pay can vary.

What’s the best bit of career advice you’ve been given?

There are many opportunities in this industry to succeed if you are willing to put in the effort. It’s a small industry, so your work ethic and reputation is extremely important.