Dennis Bridgeford farms 50ha (125 acres) at Petley Farm in
Easter Ross, about 40 miles north of Inverness. The farm
comprises of a 480-sow indoor unit producing 95kg pigs for
one outlet and 85kg pigs for a more local abattoir. A further
320 sows are run outdoors, with progeny sold at 7kg. Land not used for pigs grows spring barley for for home-mixing.
HERE we go again: The price goes below £1/kg – even with slightly cheaper cereal prices. I suspect that as pig producers, if we were entirely honest with ourselves this is below the cost of production.
No two pig producers have the same costs and I have always been very suspicious of pig men who say they can produce pigs at 90-95p/kg and make a margin. This was probably true when the cereal/pig farmer was making a reasonable margin from grain, but now that there is no excess there all the true costs have to be allocated to the pig.
Undoubtedly the strength of sterling has had a serious effect, but as an industry we have been the victim of our own success. We are all producing more, and a heavier carcass weight pig, which has put us over the magic 290,000 pigs a week on the market.
Is there a cure other than cut the price to force people out of production? Unfortunately this is becoming more and more of a blunt instrument. Most pig producers are committed to pig production – as units get more highly capital intensive, you just have to soldier on. Our only short-term hope that the sow stall and tether ban will make some people think twice about committing large sums of new investment into an industry is at best extremely fickle.
Now that I have got all that off my chest I feel a bit better. One bit of good news I received recently concerned the new unit we supply with 7kg pigs from our outdoor unit. The first of the slaughter pigs averaged over 70kg deadweight at 127 days, with the heaviest being considerably higher. This must highlight the potential that can be realised with clean buildings.
There is no doubt that lessons can be learned from the success of the chicken industry where an all in all out policy is standard practice.
The indoor unit is benefiting from the new service shed, which has released some extra fattening space around the unit that used to house gilts. Stocking density is certainly an important factor in growth rates but, unfortunately we sometimes let it slip our minds.
It is too early to give figures for conception with our new service regime, but the sows look very happy and the staff think its positively brilliant – this may have something to do with the fact that they had a lot of input into the design of the layout.n
With pig prices falling to less than £1/kg, Dennis Bridgeford is convinced that a nice joint of ham would make a better Christmas dinner than turkey!