The UK pig industry is out of date – we need to collaborate more

In the pig industry today, it’s not uncommon for a farmer to have contact with numerous different specialists in relation to their farm, such as a nutritionist, veterinarian and geneticist, all giving advice on the individual subjects they specialise in.
Often these meetings are conducted with only the individual specialists present. It is quite rare to see multiple specialists meet together on farm at the same time. The usual response I receive when I ask about this is: “Well this is how it’s always been”.
As a young person in the industry I’ve noticed something of a missing link between specialists related to an individual farmer.
I’ve occasionally asked to attend meetings between farmer and specialist and the response is often: “No, I’d rather not”.
But I really think it’s something more farmers should consider. I believe that when discussing any issues on farm we should all be meeting at the same time, getting around the table and talking with the farmer together.
Otherwise, if any of the specialists wish to make a change, how do we know that the intended changes won’t negatively affect other areas, such as health, nutrition or production?
My colleagues in Europe have joint meetings, often three to four times per year. Meetings include competitors, compound and co-product companies, all there to talk about what is best for one individual customer.
After spending some time in the Netherlands, it’s clear to see why they are years ahead of the UK in terms of pig production. Collaboration is key.
Their willingness to help one another is on another level. They often get together at study groups, and discuss each other’s nutritional, production and efficiency data. They discuss feed costs, performance data, health status and anything else considered to be helpful to fellow pig farmers.
I truly believe we could make production even better if these meetings were to go ahead. No need to wait for replies to emails which can sometimes take weeks.
All companies associated with that farm should meet and discuss that farm together at least once a year, regardless of whether there are any specific issues or not. This should be done simply because it’s a great chance to update everyone on the current market conditions between all areas and discuss any new products on the market which the farmer may benefit from.
As a young person, I think the UK pig industry is somewhat out of date. Let’s change it, pull it into the 21st century and focus on other areas where we can improve!
The annual Young NPA National event is taking place in London on Thursday December 8. We will hear from a range of speakers about meeting the ever-changing demands of consumers.
The event is a great opportunity for the next generation of pig producers and allied trades to get together and discuss such matters.

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About The Author

Editor of Pig World and contributor to LBM’s other farming publications. Also National Pig Association webmaster. Formerly political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years. Enjoy a bit of media punditry. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm. Work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Under-9 football coach and big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.