April 2014: Sharing info keeps the industry healthy

I believe this is my 323rd column since the first edition of Pig World came out in June 1987. Quite honestly it seems like yesterday, and I’m left wondering where the time has gone.

The column was originally called Mainly About Pigs, and I suppose it usually was, but over the years other subjects seem to have crept in as well, which probably fits in with pigs being a more global item than they were in those far-off days.

Whatever else has changed, one thing has remained constant and that’s the determination that pig producers have to constantly overcome the many obstacles that are put in their path. Of course, pig producers don’t just have determination, they also have ambition; ambition to do better all the time – and much of that has been out of necessity.

I cannot find any other business where information is so readily exchanged. What manufacturer would tell a competitor if they found a secret way to make something better, easier or cheaper? But pig producers are happy to let others know if they’ve found a way to get an extra pig per sow, for example.

Food is a lot different from manufacturing, and it will become even more of an essential commodity in the coming years. We will need to produce more here in the UK, so we must all work together to produce a quality product that the processors want – hopefully to the exclusion of imports.

Had we not had industry magazines to inform producers as to what is going on and what the dozens of companies involved in our industry and others are doing, we would all have been grappling in the dark and wondering what was going on out there.

Another spur, I think, has been in the control of disease; the precautions to take, things we found effective and so on. If your neighbour didn’t take care, your own unit could well have suffered.

We’re lucky to have had so much meaningful research done and the knowledge disseminated, but I know there’s more done elsewhere now, in countries where agriculture is still deemed important.

I think it’s been very much in our own interest to keep talking and exchanging info to enable us to have healthy and thriving pig production. After all, it’s doubtful if we are ever again going to have 100% home production, so we’re hardly likely to put each other out of business.

If pig farmers had not been willing to have farm visits so others could read about what they do, Pig World would never have existed, so my personal thanks go to the hundreds of farms and companies I have visited during the past 27 years.

I still have yet to see two units the same, or if they’re the same structurally, they certainly haven’t had the same performance. Hence the natural diversity in our industry, even though they’re all striving towards the same end.

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

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