‘Scottish pig industry is thriving’

The Scottish pig industry is ‘thriving’, with significant improvements made to the health of the pig herd and production rising, according to Andy McGowan, chief executive of co-operative Scottish Pig Producers. 

QMS recently announced that a blood survey showed the number of pig farms testing positive for Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) has dropped by one-third since the last survey. This was great news, but no surprise, Mr McGowan said.

He cited the document ‘Provenance & Profit: A Strategy for Scotland’s Pig Industry’, which was launched two years ago, laying out the roadmap for doubling the value of the sector by 2030 that all parts of the industry signed up to, playing our part in Scotland Food & Drink’s Ambition 2030 target. Impressive progress has been made across the 14 Actions within the strategy and PRRS reduction was one of those.

“As an immune-suppressive disease, eliminating PRRS makes it easier to control a host of other diseases on farm, improving performance whilst reducing antibiotic use to historically low levels,” he said.

“The unique agreement between all Scottish pig producers in 2015 to share their health status with each other revolutionised the ability of industry organisations to coordinate disease control efforts on a local and regional level and the benefits for the farmers are now becoming clear.”

Productivity on Scottish farms is now better than ever, with the average indoor unit weaning an extra pig per year compared to 2018 and the top-third weaning over 31 pigs/sow/year.

Average growth rates have increased by 8% and Feed Conversion Ratios improved by an astonishing 14%. In addition to health, general farm management has been developed through the Pig Monitor Farm and associated Management Groups. Both funding and facilitation from QMS lies behind many of these activities, particularly through the efforts of their Pig Specialist, Allan Ward, Mr McGowan said.

“It is not only on farm that cooperation is bringing advantages for farmers,” he said. “As one of my members regularly reminds me, [the only thing worse than getting a poor pig price is not getting any price at all because the abattoir is shut!’

“The close collaboration between Scottish Pig Producers, Scotlean and Tulip at Quality Pork Processors abattoir in Brechin continues, where the exceptional team have hit their production targets every single week since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown in spite of social distancing, market chaos and short-notice absenteeism. Forecasting and planning spans from farms to the end customers, managing variations in supply and demand for the collective benefit.

“There is a shared commitment to developing points of difference that will give Scottish consumers positive reasons to feel good about buying local pork.”

More than 80,000 carcases have already been sampled in the biggest quality monitoring programme ever undertaken in the Scottish meat industry. SRUC are refining their Agrecalc carbon footprinting tool so that the sustainability of our family farming model can be clearly demonstrated.

“The Scottish pig industry is thriving, producing 7% more high quality meat in 2019 than the previous year,” Mr McGowan said.

“It is not simply output for the sake of it, though, rather it is controlled growth in response to market demand, whether locally in Scotland or for export to China or the US. Trust, collaboration and a unity of purpose have brought us this far and there is no reason not to believe that we can achieve our target of doubling the industry value by 2030.”

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.