Crunching the numbers to make the most of a year of opportunity

There is no doubt, in my mind, that 2017 is going to be a year of opportunity.
In Scotland, we have a new plant that requires pigs. To keep this plant running at full capacity, Scottish Pig Producers (SPP) has cut back on deliveries going south of the border.

It’s a gamble. As an industry we have built a fantastic working agreement with Woodheads but it makes sense from a transport perspective not to pass one plant to get to another.

We are committed to making the Quality Pork Ltd (QPL) plant at Brechin a resounding success. But it has to be a two-way street – it’s important that the plant and, subsequently, the price reflect the marketplace.

No-one can buck the market for any period of time: any sleight of hand and pigs will filter back to abattoirs in the South.
I always view Christmas with some trepidation at the thought of frozen pipes, staff shortages and, of course, breakdowns.

The weather was mild, so there were no water problems and we have had steady staff numbers for years – one did comment that he wouldn’t dare take ill. There was one blot though: our 35-year-old cable and disc feeding system gave up and my heart sank.

As we go through this year with, hopefully, a shortage of pigs, we are going to have a very serious debate with the butchers regarding the value of these pigs

But TC Farm services did us proud, delivering a new chain and disc overnight. Fantastic service! After 35 years, the system still boasts the original pipe work, but cable has been superseded by chain.

We have now been selling pigs off-site for just over a year since our partial depop. It’s been a rollercoaster getting production and subsequent sales balanced out.
We have had to sell the odd load of weaners to balance-out stocking rates. It’s not a market I really want to be involved in, but it’s a safety valve if required.

We use that old warhorse, Paul Wright, for production and recording. His advice has been invaluable.
Our feed supplier, Harbro, offered us the use of Ian Lyle’s finance calculator and it’s – to use the vernacular of a younger generation – ‘pure dead brilliant’, so now we have really started number-crunching.

Here’s an example of one outcome we are trying to manage. We have a local market for mid-70kg pigs, which has been growing over the years, but it’s difficult to get the price to equal the income for 85kg+ pigs, even taking in cheaper haulage and better killing out percentage.

As we go through this year with, hopefully, a shortage of pigs, we are going to have a very serious debate with the butchers regarding the value of these pigs.
We have invested a serious level of capital in the pig industry. Is 2017 a year to benefit or are we going to be the sacrificial offering to Europe from our politicians?
The 17 per cent price increase following the Brexit vote should galvanise our thoughts and we should not allow this to be thrown away to feed the masses at our expense.

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