We are in now in crisis mode. Soya is at £460 and wheat £230, meaning feed costs are up £60/t from this time last year – equivalent to £18 a pig. With pigs prices the same as last year, BPEX have stated that pig farmers are losing £18 a pig. These are extreme costs, equivalent to nothing we’ve had to deal with before.
I do not want to become one of the casualties of these extreme costs so, as a result, I have taken the short-term decision to reduce sow numbers by culling more of the poorer performing sows that are having three litters with an a average less than 30 pigs born alive a sow a year. It will reduce my pig sales this time next year when our margin might be better, but there is little else I can do to reduce my costs right now.
I attended a meeting of worried pig farmers on how the industry might put a strategy together to continue to lobby retailers and processors of the serious situation. In my opinion retailers need to move sooner rather than later to secure supply for the future.
There is no doubt that the industry and pricing structure needs to become more integrated, but there seems to be uncertainty how to do so.
Andrew McCrea farms a 740-sow birth-to-bacon business and 150 beef cattle on 37ha. The pig business is a sow and weaner farm with four contract finishers. He produces 18,000 pigs a year to the British Quality-assured Red Tractor standard. Andrew is a DARD Focus Farmer and was Farmers Weekly Pig Farmer of the Year 2010.