In the first of a series of New Year messages we will be posting over the next few days, NPA Allied Industry Group chair Hugh Crabtree offers some reasons to be cheerful in 2019.
In the run up to the Christmas and New Year holiday period it is always a time for reflection for me as it is for many others no doubt.
The political chaos surrounding Brexit has dominated our news whilst the pig industry has seemingly come under pressure from many directions. The steadily falling price paid for market pigs alongside a rise in feed costs has meant that only the really efficient producers continue to make a margin. The continuing challenge of reducing antibiotic use demands attention – however well the sector has done in getting a grip on this hot topic for consumers.
Compliance with welfare and environmental regulation is being enforced with the threat of single farm payments being withheld. The nasty side of animal rights activism has reared its head on a number of occasions recently. Goodness, is there anything to be cheerful about?
I think there is. The sector’s representative body has developed into a really effective trade association lead with passion by Zoe Davies. She and her colleagues at the coalface of political lobbying and dealing with very detailed technical issues continue to work tirelessly on our behalves. Significant successes have been achieved in 2018 and the industry should be mightily thankful that this commitment and dedication is cheerfully given.
A recognition of the stresses and strains in business – especially livestock sectors – is of particular concern to the NPA. Mental health being every bit as important as physical health. There is a growing relationship between the NPA and the Farming Community Network (FCN) and this is to be welcomed.
But in addition to that, there is an initiative within the allied industry membership to formalise communications in order to create our own in-house support network. We must not forget that our full time staff at the NPA are under a lot of pressure themselves as they work to support members so a bit of member-based support for our staff will be no bad thing.
There has been a long period of re-investment in the facilities for raising pigs and performance improvements both in the breeding and the finishing herds are evident. The professionalisation of the industry continues apace with increasing attention being paid to the use of technology to support better trained staff.
Of course the objective is to improve the performance of the pigs but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last four decades it’s the people that make all the difference. My message for 2019 therefore is for all production businesses to invest in people through training and decision support technologies.
To quote my sadly deceased business partner Nick Bird’s maxim: “It’s simple: people just have to do more things more right more of the time!”
I wish everyone in the UK pig industry a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.