Andrew Freemantle wonders about finishing units

Firstly I wish to pass my message of support to the British Pig Industry Support Group (BPISG), who recently protested outside Tesco’s AGM, the main thrust of their protest was the £13 million a week difference between the supermarket profits on pork and bacon products and the British pig industries £3 million loss. Perhaps now Tesco’s board members are a bit more aware of their responsibilities to the rest of the supply chain.

On the farm, we have a very welcome problem to try and solve. Without trying to tempt fate, we are producing more pigs than our finishing unit can cope with, the result being the finished pig weights are dropping to about 70kg deadweight.

The finishing unit is 14 years old and could do with rebuilding, but what should I build instead? It seems the best and cheapest way is to keep finished pigs on slats, but I would lose my Freedom Food status if I did that and I would probably need planning again, which could be a nightmare. And in the West Country, a solid floor system, run with expensive or non-existent straw, is equally unfeasible, which highlights the “impossible job” farmers are presented with at the moment.

We are being urged by government to produce more food under the “Sustainable Intensification” programme, but with supermarkets sucking up all the margins and planners and pressure groups stopping any development (we only need to take a look at the backlash Midland Pigs is facing), how long, I wonder, before the UK becomes one big arable farm? With the present pressures, I believe it is only a matter of time before all livestock production is exported.

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