Producers told to “man up” when vet says you’ve got it wrong

If a specialist adviser or vet visits your farm and tells you you’re doing something wrong then “man up” and take notice of what’s being said.

That was the challenge issued by South Norfolk outdoor pig producer, Simon Watchorn, when he addressed a forum audience at this week’s Pig & Poultry Fair as part of AHDB Pork’s presentation on how to achieve “calm out of the chaos”.

“Don’t be defensive when someone tells you you’ve got it wrong,” he told the gathering. “The adviser or vet in question isn’t being aggressive or critical, just trying to help you achieve better results.”

Mr Watchorn runs a 600-sow breed-to-finish unit, all Red Tractor and Freedom Food, selling mostly direct to Morrison’s, and a huge part of his forum presentation centred on the importance of good record keeping.

“You’ve got to work out where the weaknesses are in your management protocols,” he said. “There are four main aspects of pig production; genetics, nutrition, health and management, and the first three on that list will be handled by professionals from the companies you deal with.

“Your management responsibility, therefore, is to bring those three aspects together, decide where and how you’re going to apply your own financial, physical or labour assets and how to get the mix right.”

That’s where having a good recording system can begin to have a really significant impact on business performance.

“Good recording allows you to measure and analyse what you’re doing,” he told listening producers, “and once you know what you’re doing, you can start to work out where you’re heading as a business. Given this level of understanding, you’ll also know when you get there, at which point you can begin to consider what needs to come next to keep the business moving forward.”

Pointing out that he keeps his own recording system as simple as possible, Mr Watchorn added that his process only required record sheets to be completed for breeding, servicing, farrowing and weaning. Everything else, such as invoices, payments, slaughter weights, etc., all “travelled through the office” in any case and could be captured for recording reasons at that stage.

This, he added, gave him a good overview of how his business is performing, providing a strong evidence base for further investigation and analysis.

“We have a two-day visit by our vet every quarter, for example, and we use our recorded data as the starting point for each new session,” he said.  “In fact, we spend the first day sitting in the office looking at the numbers we’ve collected, going deeper into anything which we think warrants further attention.

“If necessary, we’ll then spend the bulk of the rest of the visit looking at maybe just one area which we feel is especially important. During the last couple of years, for instance, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at weaning issues, as we felt this needed attention. We’ve now got on top of that area, however, and will focus on something else the next time he visits.”

Headline image shows Simon Watchorn (right) alongside North Yorkshire producer, Stephen Tuer, who also contributed to the “calm out of the chaos” session. Pig World reported on Mr Tuer’s presentation on May 11. 

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