The beginning of another year always brings hope, often followed by despair. No farmer wants the start of this year to be as bad as 2016 and prices are now somewhere near where they need to be.
I noticed that Andersons thought things looked better going forward, and I was delighted to see that Midland Pig Producers (MPP) was granted an environmental permit for a proposed new pig farm.
If, and when, it comes off, it will be a forward-looking unit with a lot of thought having gone into it. Who knows, maybe what MPP hopes to achieve will be the way forward for our industry.
On a worldwide-scale, I can take heart from the figures produced by Canadian company Genesus, which is excellent at reporting on all aspects of global pig production.
Take Spain as an example where, at the beginning of 2016, prices were €0.947 (£0.82)/kg liveweight. Thanks to an increase in exports, mainly driven by China, which already accounted for more than half of production, Spanish producers finished the year with a value of €1.129 (£0.98)/kg – 19.2 per cent higher than a year ago.
Genesus continues to be amazed by the futures price in the US, $4.40 (£3.57)/kg, considering the amount of pork going to market relative to any time in history, with plants running at a maximum of 443,000 hogs per day.
This demand is an indication of excellent retail, foodservices and export markets, and augurs well for 2017, as hog supplies decline seasonally, and also as new killing plants come online.
The 19.03 hogs marketed per breeding animal is a very close estimate of the productivity of the US-Canada swine industry. Bearing in mind this is an average figure, some producers are achieving figures way below that. So how do they survive?
If my memory serves me correctly, the hogs or swine on US farms are somewhat heavier than ours. On a friend’s farm in Indiana, I was once told that if one of their hogs killed out at less than 100kg, they would be penalised.
Canadian hog farmers are thought to produce three more pigs per breeding animal than in the US.
They tend to stay committed to true F1 females, to enhance productivity and they also use more Duroc boars, which apparently leads to lower mortality. In general, health is better in Canada, where a higher percentage of production is owned and operated by individuals in their own barns.
In nutrition, they concentrate on performance, not the cheapest option.
So Genesus observes that, on average, production in Canada is better than US. Having said that, Genesus notes that there are some excellent producers in the USA and also some poor ones in Canada.
I guess that is true in all pig producing countries, yet I believe we can all still learn from each other, no matter where we are.