Farmer Focus: Next generation inspires as pig crisis deepens

I must admit that I’m feeling a bit downtrodden right now. The “proverbial” often comes in piles, doesn’t it? 

Pigs are still being rolled on a weekly basis. Several thousand piglets are being culled to create space, and pigs are going out of specification. 

At home, 30% of our current finishing batch is still hanging around on farm when they should have gone three weeks ago.

This is not helped by a possible TB lesion found on a carcass at a local abattoir, which is disrupting our movements until we get the more-than-likely negative test result.

About the author

Sophie Hope
Livestock Farmer Focus writer
Sophie Hope, Cheltenham, farms 380 sows indoors from farrow to finish, producing 10,000 pigs a year direct to Tesco, as well as 81,000 broiler-breeders. A straw-based system is currently in place with boars from composite commercial lines and some Hampshire used for hardiness.
Read more articles by Sophie Hope

See also: Emergency slaughter of heavy pigs drags down standard price

What with the current backlog, on-farm production problems, staff issues, suspected TB cases, huge increases in costs, falling pig prices and many other things across the wider farm (including a possible compulsory purchase order of our most productive arable field for ecological mitigation for a road that’s being built two miles away), I feel like we are taking a real battering at the moment, and from all angles.

With feed prices rising, it’s tough, especially with surcharges on feed which we are unable to pass on to our customers. It’s a broken model, but that’s a story for another day. 

Seeing many prominent people exiting the pig sector and other challenges on the horizon, such as banning farrowing crates, environmental permits and climate change, all make me question whether continuing in the industry is wise. 

But then I see the enthusiasm that my young son, Tom, has for the farm, and I realise the future is now. He gives me renewed vigour to support the next generation of British farmers to continue putting local food on the nation’s tables.

I feel like we have a gold mine here, but we are just having trouble excavating it right now. I am determined to continue the good work that my grandfather and dad have put in over the past 90 years.

Benjamin Franklin said “out of adversity comes opportunity”.  Unfortunately, I am quite risk-adverse and I’m not a natural blue-sky thinker.

It looks like I’ll have to push myself outside my comfort zone to create a resilient business that can weather the difficulties UK agriculture is facing.