May 2016: The Pig Fair will definitely be worth a look

No matter what state our industry is in, there always seem to be a good attendance at the Pig Fair. They say as you get older time passes more quickly, and that’s definitely the case as it seems no time at all since the last one, and indeed during the past 29 years of Pig World, which this issue completes.

Yes, we’ve always had ups and downs, but each time seems to get worse, and currently it’s not easy to see which way, when, or even if the tide will turn. There will doubtless be casualties, which is always catastrophic, particularly when it’s due to circumstances beyond their control.

There’s always something new or even revolutionary at each Pig Fair. Of course we’ve some of the old faithfuls that, with a bit of tweaking, have withstood the test of time, so we must have got something right to start with.

I was thinking the other day about some of the technology that has been developed in the past 60 years or so. Styrofoam sheets for roof insulation were a great thing to start with, until we found that rats liked to chew them. Similarly with asbestos sheets, until we found out how harmful they were.

The way catheters have developed for our much-improved AI sector is almost mind blowing; in fact the way that AI has virtually taken over on most units today would have been thought of as impossible when we had rather cumbersome washable rubber catheters to work with and the Ministry AI man visiting farms to do the insemination. Today, we don’t want companies going from farm to farm, and even the knacker men have altered their techniques to improve biosecurity. And, of course, farm security is also much better.

Ventilation and insulation in modern piggeries, plus the recording systems for how effective they are, has been an eye opener. And different flooring materials have made life more comfortable for the pigs. Feeding troughs and feed systems have gradually developed during the years and are designed to stop waste.

We now know more about stocking levels and the harmful effect overcrowding has. There are a lot less mixed farms with pigs on them, at least for breeding purposes, but we have more farms then ever before involved with bed and breakfast. That leaves the breeding sector more able to concentrate on what it’s good at – and makes for better health status.

Feed companies and on-farm milling and mixing have access to more ingredients than ever before, and we have a number of nutritionists for both dry and wet feeding techniques.

But, surely the biggest development has to be in genetics and health, with the ability to control diseases and to have growth rates and feed conversions undreamed of 60 years ago. All the advantages we now have will, no doubt, be represented at the Pig Fair – so it’ll definitely be worth a look.

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About The Author

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