Farmer Focus: Weathering same storm in different boats

What a rollercoaster the past five weeks have been.

Having my three-year-old come to work with me every day has got to be one of the most fun and the most exasperating experiences. 

I’m sure many of you can relate. Although it’s a juggling act, I am grateful to be spending this time with him and appreciate how lucky we are to have the farm during these crazy times. 

It’s certainly become clear that we are all weathering the same storm, but in very different boats.

Thankfully, the pig business has not been adversely affected so far. In fact, we have seen an increase in demand from local outlets and the Standard Pig Price (SPP) reached 164p/kg for the first time since 2017. 

See also: Coronavirus: Farms advised to use face masks

Retail has seen a big uplift in sausage and bacon sales (up 48% and 18%, respectively, for the week ending 12 April), to the detriment of fresh pork (total roasting joints down 63%). 

AHDB has just launched another campaign to promote pulled pork; hopefully driving some more fresh sales and taking some of the burden from cold stores. 

Unfortunately, our European counterparts aren’t doing so well, with Germany seeing a 9% in their pig price, which is at an equivalent 153p/kg. 

This has had an effect on UK cull sow values and leaves open the possibility of cheaper continental imports sneaking their way back in.

On the flip side, the poultry business is seeing some pressures. We have three broiler breeder farms, supplying fertile hatching eggs.

Although retail of fresh chicken is up 10-15%, this is not enough to offset the decline in foodservice. This means that some flocks are being culled early and others brought into lay late, at huge cost to all in the supply chain.

With a new flock coming in next week, I am pretty nervous, to say the least.

In some more positive news, the National Pig Association’s farrowing crate survey unearthed that 43% of respondents would leave the industry if there was a ban, so they have been lobbying tirelessly on our behalf.

Defra ministers now want to work with us to phase out farrowing crates, rather than a complete ban, which is a welcome shift in mindset.

Sophie Hope is a Farmer Focus writer from near Cheltenham. Read her biography