Brexit means change is inevitable and it’s up to us to live with the consequences

The Brexit debate has left me punch drunk. The people have decided to leave the European Union, and so be it.

Now the poor foot soldiers that create employment are going to have to work round the changes that are inevitable.
Currency fluctuations on the back of the ‘leave’ vote resulted in a 17% increase in the price of pigs, but on the downside, there has been a serious increase in the cost of grain and proteins.

Thankfully, the price rise is higher than the increase of input costs – which makes a nice change.
If my memory serves me right, it’s very rare that pig prices haven’t tumbled on the back of the January/February blues.
With the indications of a shortage of pigs as we head towards Easter, hopefully we should start to see an increase in price this year. But, and it’s a big ‘but’, we are going to have to staff most – if not all – pig units that employ a large number of East European workers. They have been a godsend.

“From a business perspective, the grant aid we have received – mainly from Europe – due to our geographic location has helped the unit to expand. A Dutch barn, a weaner shed, a finishing building and a slurry store have all been assisted to varying levels”

In our case, we lost hard-working employees to the oil industry – some liked it, some hated it with equal passion, but they left, nevertheless.
Now, sadly, the oil industry is in recession but the staff are reaching an age that retirement is the order of the day. So, with all the pontificating that’s going on, even the merest hint that these hard-working staff should be returned to their homeland will need to be resisted with vigour.

From a business perspective, the grant aid we have received – mainly from Europe – due to our geographic location has helped the unit to expand. A Dutch barn, a weaner shed, a finishing building and a slurry store have all been assisted to varying levels.

Should these grants be lost when we leave the EU, I just cannot see them being replaced by the present administration.
On the unit itself, gilt litter weaning weights have fallen from 7.5kg/pig and are struggling to get over 6.5kg/pig, with a resulting slow growth problem in the newly-weaned area. They are suckling well, with no obvious signs of a problem, but as you walk down the farrowing rooms and see these thumpers of pigs on sows, sadly the gilts’ litters look to be at least a week younger. We have reduced the litter size by fostering one pig/litter. Our nutritionist has taken a feed sample for analysis and a review of the diet is being undertaken. We normally purchase our cereals locally, but with the shortage of barley, we are having to ship in from outside the area, while also accepting some two-rowed winter barley. The malters snapped up every sample; it’s amazing how they change their spec when it suits their needs. It will be a very interesting harvest this year with every acre being ploughed.

As I write, we are waiting for a decision on the use of in-feed zinc in starter diets, a great product in assisting the young pig change from milk to cereal diets. My betting is that science and good husbandry won’t be listened to – maybe it’s the cynic in me!

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