Building herd health is top priority in maintaining pig industry profit

A period of sustained profitability in the pig industry, something lacked for many years, has resulted in a degree of confidence for producers. But this confidence is tenuous and can be damaged at any time, according to Stewart Houston, chairman of the National Pig Association.

Talking to those attending a joint Society of Feed Technologists and Meat and Livestock Commission conference of pig topics, Mr Houston said there were both challenges and opportunities open to the industry. “There is a robust demand not just in the UK, but worldwide and coupled with a growth in premium markets, this provides a real opportunity for producers.”

To meet this demand, foreign companies such as Danish Crown were consolidating. “However, this increase is not without its problems, with animal disease having had a major impact on world trade, exerting downward pressure on demand and confidence. On pig production PRRS, PMWS and PDNS have also had drastic effects on performance,” adds Mr Houston.

Costs of production 

“In comparison with EU costs of production, the UK is second highest only to Italy, who owe this inflated amount to the production of specialist products. UK producers have invested in health, with the help of vets and the industry. However, sow productivity has only just started to get back up to respectable levels.”

After publishing The Road to Recovery strategy in 2002, BPEX had revised and updated objectives to suit the industry in the period of 2006 to 2009. “Our specific objectives are to recover herd health, improve cost competitiveness to allow our industry to at least compare with our EU competitors, build industry confidence and increase demand for British Pork and pork products.”

Analysing the role of BPEX within the industry, Mr Houston recognised BPEX as a communicator to and on behalf of the industry and highlighted the need for effective knowledge transfer to producers and the public. “Eventually, BPEX hopes to do itself out of a job, establishing long-term supply chains with processors while taking the pressure off producer levypayers.”

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