Farmer Focus: Free-range pig weights hit by wet weather

Well we’ve hit that time of year again where growth rates take a hit and the pigs seem to be at a standstill. Every year we get the same problem, more so with the free range pigs, because we can’t control the elements, so in true stereotypical farmer style I’m going to have a good old moan about the weather!

One of our main challenges on the free range fattening side is getting consistent weights and probes on our pigs. We know we have a consistent product taste wise, but when it comes to weights and the probe it can be a real challenge, particularly when the weather is against us.

Mind you I am a little thankful for the rain given the severe winds we’ve had – if we hadn’t had a bit of wet weather prior, the blow away sand we have our pigs on may have quite literally blown away. We were lucky to escape with just a canopy from our lairage tent blowing off – all credit to our men being well prepared and getting everything strapped down.

So with weights down and pigs on the lean side we’ve had a few grumbles. We know it will only be a matter of weeks that they come right again and we’ll probably have too many ready all at once and then it swings the other way, but we’re hoping in the meantime our customers will understand the challenges we face.

I quite often think how nice it would be to do a “Walk the Line” day where customers, suppliers and each step of the chain walks through the whole process from farm to abattoir to processor to shop, etc, and at each step various scenarios are shown, the challenges explained, and how each stage impacts on the next.

Quite often I find myself stuck in the middle trying to explain to the lads on the farm why the abattoir needs pigs in on time or explaining to customers why we need big orders of cured products earlier and it is quite often apparent that I may as well be speaking Swahili.

So “Walk the Line” anyone? Given the weather I reckon the 2ºC and rain may just put all but the farmers off. Perhaps we’ll leave it until the Summer.

Anna Longthorp runs Anna’s Happy Trotters, a pork wholesale business supplying butchers, restaurants and farm shops with free-range pork from her family’s 2,100 breeding sows

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