Farmers Weekly Awards 2023: Pig Farmer of the Year

Guy King of GSK Pigs, Norfolk, is the 2023 Farmers Weekly Pig Farmer of the Year.

When Guy King left school, he was earning £21/week on a youth training scheme while he learned the rudiments of pig husbandry.

Starting from scratch meant he had no preconceptions, but plenty of drive and determination.

He now has 8,600 sows across nine outdoor units in Norfolk and Suffolk and nearly 60 staff.

See also: Farmers Weekly Awards: 2023 shortlist announced

Farm facts

  • 8,600 sows across nine outdoor units in Norfolk and Suffolk
  • Units run on rented arable land totalling 445ha
  • Three units are run in partnership
  • Two sites – one organic and one with rare breeds – are breeder-finisher units
  • Red Tractor- and RSPCA-assured
  • 59 staff

Guy cut his teeth on indoor and outdoor systems, then picked up valuable lessons about time and motion from working outside farming as a mechanic and a builder before setting up his own company, GSK Pigs, in 2005.

He had to find money, land and equipment to get started, even building his own pig huts in the early days of the business.

Today, GSK Pigs provides the land, staff, machinery and equipment, while BQP supplies pigs, feed and veterinary support for seven of the units.

Pigs are weaned at five weeks before moving to BQP grower units.

New BQP contracts reflect a focus on quality as well as quantity, says Guy, with payment a pig now based on weaner weights, rather than just numbers. Target weaning weight across the units is 9kg.

In addition, Greenlane Organics, a 400-sow farrow-to-finish setup, is run on behalf of the Organic Pig Company.

Finished pigs are mainly sold under the Waitrose Duchy Organic brand, along with some independent customers.

Bruntona Rare Breeds, the newest venture, is a 200-sow unit on 32ha that also takes pigs to finishing weight. It supplies high-end restaurants and hotels.

Environment

Guy has developed good working relationships with his landlords that make the most of outdoor pigs in arable rotations.

At the same time, he has worked with Catchment Sensitive Farming and Anglian Water for many years to reduce diffuse pollution and run-off, so soil and nutrients do not end up in watercourses.

The introduction of grass leys has dramatically improved soil condition and cut the risk of soil erosion while pigs are on the land.

A mix of timothy, cocksfoot, fescues and clover is sown into cereal stubble using min-till before pigs are put on the following March.

Once the land returns to arable, Guy’s landlords tend to follow with a nitrogen-hungry crop such as maize.

This commitment to maintaining green cover also benefits pigs and staff. He has found the ground temperature of paddocks with grass is about 5-6C lower than bare soil in summer.

Opportunities

Each unit has a dedicated team who know the farm, the pigs, the kit and the best way to get jobs done.

There is a clear staffing structure with a manager, assistant manager, lead stockman and trainee or lower-grade stockman at each unit. And there are opportunities for progression.

There are also openings for high-flying staff to run units in partnership with Guy – three units are now run in this way.

Taking on a fieldsman recently to help oversee the units, particularly the three in Suffolk, has enabled Guy to reorganise his working week.

“I was fighting fires and not getting enough contact with the pigs,” he says. “Getting out and helping the teams is what I love most, and it proves to them I can do what they do.” 

Winning ways

  • A very switched-on operator with an eye for the next opportunity
  • Consistently good performance across multiple outdoor units
  • Opportunities for staff progression and partnerships
  • Commitment to protecting soil and water quality by maintaining green cover on all sites
  • Strong working relationships with arable landlords
  • Clear concern for pig welfare

A word from our independent judge

“Guy impressed us with his passion for developing his business and commitment to the environment. His unit was very well run by a team of dedicated staff who are achieving impressive health and welfare outcomes.”

Charlie Dewhirst, senior policy adviser, National Pig Association

The Farmers Weekly 2023 Pig Farmer of the Year Award is sponsored by Pilgrims UK

The Farmers Weekly Awards celebrate the very best of British agriculture by recognising hard-working and innovative farmers across the UK.

Find out more about the Awards, the categories and sponsorship opportunities on our Awards website.

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