Farmer Focus: Fight to keep pig costs down

I recently went to a practical on-farm renewable energy event, where nearly 700 other farmers also took time out of their busy schedules to attend.

We looked at what is available to implement on our farms, both to reduce costs and diversify our businesses.

I was asked to give a short seminar on my experience installing a biomass boiler (woodpellet boiler). It was pleasing to see the genuine interest that folk have in reducing production costs.

See also: Farmer Focus: Tractor run raises £12,000 for orphanage

Pig farmers always like to bring everything back to “the pig”. When looking at costs it is vital to know how much burden “the pig” must carry. Although sometimes difficult to calculate, it is always a worthy exercise.

“Pig farmers always like to bring everything back to “the pig”. When looking at costs it is vital to know how much burden “the pig” must carry. Although sometimes difficult to calculate, it is always a worthy exercise.”
Andrew McCrea

I am able to demonstrate that by installing a biomass boiler, I have been able to make savings of more than £1 a pig. I encouraged those listening to always try and bring costs into the reality of the singular of whatever they are producing. Whether it is pigs, beef, a litre of milk, or any product, knowing how much it costs to produce and making small savings, can make a big difference.

Our pigs are performing quite well, although a bit of late summer infertility will definitely cause a dent in my otherwise steady production.

With few disease issues to report and some modest improvements in growth, things could be going much worse. I heard the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Hillsborough have been doing ongoing trials with some amazing growth rates. Significant numbers of pigs are reaching 110kgs in 140 days or gaining 785g a day from birth. Needless to say I will be making a few enquiries into how this is achieved.

Meanwhile back on the farm, maintenance and improvements of my rapidly ageing pig farm, now fast approaching its 20th birthday, and also older rented premises, are causing plenty of head scratching. How best can I repair quite extensive buildings at minimal cost? It’s no wonder I don’t have much hair left. 

Andrew McCrea farms a 740-sow birth-to-bacon business and 150 beef cattle on 37ha. Andrew is a Dard Focus Farmer and was 2010 Farmers Weekly Pig Farmer of the Year.