October 2013 – Don’t dismiss novel byproducts for feed

The agricultural press has been reporting that the price of land has trebled in the past decade and values in the region of £10,000/acre are now being seen. The returns from agricultural land certainly haven’t trebled, so why pay it? It can’t be for the return on capital.

It’s more likely that roll over money is involved and purchasers are just trying to save on massive tax bills. But that just makes it difficult, in fact almost impossible, for existing farmers to expand and for new entrants to get started. Having said that, when land reached £1,000/acre we said the same, so who knows?

A friend bought some land at £10,000/acre because he could borrow money at 2%, which effectively means he’s paying “rent” of £200/acre on the new ground. It needs to be particularly good land and able to produce high-output crops to stand that sort of charge.

Rents around here are up for negotiation this coming spring, which could be interesting! I know when I started out 40 years ago on my own, wheat was four times the price of the rent; I wish it still was!

With feed still representing the biggest single expense, no matter which country you are in, the Prairie Swine Centre (PSC) in the US reckons the cost to feed a pig to slaughter has virtually doubled during the past two years. And I don’t think many would take issue with that statement.

There’s always a healthy debate about the value of different feedstuffs, and the novel ingredients and byproducts that are available in different parts of the world. It’s something the PSC calls formulating with opportunity ingredients.

When looking at the many opportunity ingredients that can be used to increase margin over feed costs, it’s important to understand the nutrients they contain, the risks involved with using them and their potential economic benefits when formulated properly into pig diets.

That sounds sensible enough, and thankfully we’re blessed with a number of top nutritionists in the UK who excel in these kind of scenarios. I guess we take advantage of many “unusual” ingredients, but the problem is often continuity of supply.

You may have noticed that there’s currently a new debate underway about swill feeding. While this practice finished up getting a bad name, I have seen several top-notch units that adhered strictly to the rules and never had any problems.

I remember the last swill-feeding unit I visited; it was immaculate with a new totally enclosed processing plant in a Ministry-designed building. The farmer concerned collected the swill from a variety of outlets in a modern sealed tanker.

When he was closed down, he was asked to continue collecting the waste, but to take it to landfill sites. What bugged him was that the waste sites became infested with rats and covered with crows, seagulls and other wild animals looking for nourishment.

> Yorkshire farmer Sam Walton is a former pig producer and the founding editor of Pig World

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