Farmer Focus: Agriculture could learn from the oil industry

This winter/early spring seems to have been the worst I can remember for all sectors of British farming – in particular for arable and livestock farmers, the weather has been appalling.

Sure, we have had wetter and colder years, but the bad weather we have had this winter seems to have come at critical times for various sectors – spring cultivations, lambing time, outdoor pigs, high viral challenges for a lot of pig farmers.

I just feel agriculture worldwide should be addressing the problem of supply and demand. Seven years ago, I employed a new man on the farm.

One of the reasons I gave to encourage him to join us was I believed agriculture would be the new oil and that farming had a great future, thanks to a booming world population which would need to be fed.

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Farmers worldwide have risen to the challenge as always and are producing more and more food each year, but none of us seems to be getting any richer?

From the pig farmer’s perspective, we select a sow to serve with dam line semen to produce our replacement gilts, we then have four months’ pregnancy and eight months before we can serve the gilt, followed by four months’ pregnancy and five months until her progeny reach slaughter weight.

That’s 21 months before we see a return and nobody has a clue what we will be receiving per kilogram for pigs in two years.

Farming is bloody hard work and farmers deserve to make a profit to enable them to reinvest and to make a career in agriculture inviting to future generations.

Referring back to oil, maybe it’s time for worldwide farming to have something similar to Opec to limit supply when prices are below profit-making levels? Governments would soon start looking at the farming sectors more favourably.

Maybe the organisations that currently represent farmers’ interests are too cosy with governments/Defra and need to start banging a few tables? This is not, I hasten to add, such a problem in the pig sector, as we have the NPA fighting our corner.

Keeping antibiotics use to a minimum is a key aim for David Owers on the 700-sow indoor closed unit he manages in Lincolnshire. He sells half of the progeny as 8kg weaned pigs and rears the rest to bacon weight (105kg). The farm includes horses, cattle, 1,620ha of arable land and an AD unit.