In the latest issue of Pig World, Norfolk outdoor pig producer Chris Fogden explains why he has made the difficult decision to quit the industry.
Will the last independent producer to leave please turn out the lights?
I have become one of the statistics. Culling the breeding herd has started – we are taking the long route out, stopping serving, farrowing everything through and finishing all of the progeny, which should take until the middle of next year to see the last finished pigs leave.
I really have lost the will to take any more knocks: A bad PRRS breakdown in 2019, swine flu, loss of a weaner supply contract with only three weeks’ notice, twice within a year, broken contracts, broken promises, no comeback, giving thousands of weaners away, all of the work and stress that it takes to change the direction, forced by the circumstances, into finishing pigs free range from a reduced herd, culling much of the sow herd mid-gestation, virtually giving those sows away, only getting a finished pig contract at the eleventh-hour, being let down time and again by those that are supposedly here to help us, trying to keep my own head together, losing hundreds of thousands of pounds, including much of my pension fund, Vladimir effing Putin, hot weather, wet weather, stormy weather, cold weather, dry weather.
Kicking after kicking. It’s a wonder that I’ve survived so far.
The decision, to some, might have seemed hasty. It had, however, been burning away in the back of my mind for a while. The finished pig contract means that I can give six months’ notice after the first year. I will keep to that and am certain that the processor will too.
The date, at which we could stop serving and start culling, was highlighted in my mental diary – but it’s not in my nature to give up, is it? Sometimes you can battle on just far too long.
There have been some highs: the performance of the stock, the backing and flexibility from my staff, the kindliness of neighbours in sending over very necessary equipment, getting a finished pig supply contract at the utter last minute, having good friends and family.
The next question is what on earth to do next? I’m too young and now too poor to be able to retire. I have been doing a lot of dreaming, probably to excess – winning the Euromillions and wasting it all on an arable farm (and wasting quite a lot of it in other ways too) is of course far-fetched. Some small business ideas are more feasible, others absolutely ludicrous.
After weeks of dreaming of not seeing another pig ever again rational thoughts have turned to perhaps keeping pigs for one of the surviving corporates – after all, UK-produced, high welfare pigmeat will be in demand for some time won’t it?
Or maybe I will find a different path. A lot of it depends on how the de-stocking pans out financially and what opportunities I can tease out over the coming months.
There will also be the odd challenge or several to overcome I am certain.
Picture: Chris was interviewed by the BBC Countryfile programme about his decision to quit the industry. “It was either them or me. I had to get out to still have a roof over my head. If I carried on there was a risk of losing everything,” he said.