April 2016: It’s all in the detail

I think you’ll agree it’s nice to finally see some sunshine and warmer temperatures. However, it does seem that as soon as it dries out slightly, it then pours down and everywhere is ankle deep, or more, in water again. Unfortunately, the weather somewhat resembles the pig price at the moment.

So, like everyone else, we’ve had to rethink our plans and adapt to the current market circumstances. And while we continue to move forward with current work streams, which include driving improvements in performance, we’ve also had to deliver activity that can help address the problems of today.

We have organised activity around the theme Getting through tough times. Last month’s webinar looked at how Irish producers have coped with low prices and, importantly, how they’ve managed to carry on taking their businesses forward despite a prolonged dip. I’m happy to report that this particular webinar was the most successful to date, with regards to participation and subsequent downloads, and is still available on the AHDB Pork website – click here.

The webinar was followed by regional meetings to explore the cost of production by using purpose-built calculators.

I believe that there are big gains to be made by paying attention to detail, and this is illustrated by the calculators. I attended one of the meetings, where our former colleague Richard Bull did a good job of showing how tightening up on points of detail such as empty days, number of returns and range of slaughter weight has a big effect on the bottom line. He also showed how easy it can be to lose any savings through a poor decision.

As an organisation, we’ve pushed the improvement of physical performance with indicators such as tonnes of pig meat and so on, and we also need to ensure that this translates into improved financial performance too. It’s important that we optimise everything, and we do have farms performing up there with the Danes and Dutch.

I urge everyone to look at what we’ve been doing and to speak to one of our regional managers to see how we can help you get through these tough times. My feeling is all businesses (and individuals) need to stand back from time to time and look at the detail of input costs and outputs.
While on the topic of standing back, have you ever thought about how others see you and your farm? We’re fighting declining sales, so image is everything, especially when marketing campaigns are running. The NPA is running a campaign to keep farms tidy and leave nothing that can be used as ammunition. We fully support them, and the message.

We have to think about how others see us. If in doubt, invite a non-farming acquaintance round to be a critical friend, and you have a reason to impress. Again, it’s all in the detail.

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About The Author

Nigel Penlington joined AHDB Pigs in 2004 and is now the organisation’s head of research and development and knowledge exchange.