Reasons to be optimistic, despite the indecision and the relentless grind

Dennis Bridgeford is based near Easter Ross in Scotland’s Highland Region and operates an indoor herd of 550 sows rearing lighter weight finishers of 75kg

As we come to end of another year, it’s only natural to reflect on the past 12 months.

Certainly, the last six months have not been good for the soul. Declining pig prices, straw in short supply and new crop grain considerably more expensive than last year have all tested my easy-going manner.

We are now seeing units in Scotland that are committed to pigs either doing partial or total depops. But, sadly, we are now also seeing units closing for various reasons – they can’t get staff or problems with legislation are two examples. One producer made the comment that he was ‘just fed up of the grind’. Why should we bust a gut in an industry that, at the drop of a hat, will import cheap surplus product?

As ever, I remain optimistic. Maybe we have seen the peak price for grain, although barley, in particular, is in short supply.

It appears that there are huge tonnages out there of soya, with the Chinese playing the market. Hopefully, prices will become a little more stable.

The pig industry is, like all industries, suffering from indecision from the UK Government. Just to add to the mix we have, in Scotland, a population and a Government that wanted to remain in the EU, and they will make political capital to help meet their ends.

The exceedingly sad bit is that we have no control over the exit strategy. The fishing industry in our area is holding its breath to see if it is going to be sold out in some sort of bargaining pincer movement – let’s hope that agriculture isn’t part of the sell-off.

I mentioned in my last article that we were experiencing some fertility problems, and hopefully we have come through it – an issue, I gather, replicated around the pig industry. We will see in the spring how large a problem it has been.

There has been no real trend, other than consistently poor fertility every week over a period. We have brought in that old industry ‘war horse’ Paul Wright to do some training on AI just to focus everyone’s mind. The obvious factor was the weather – those really hot days in July were probably the cause, as the sows struggled with the heat.

I was totally depressed so Eileen suggested a week in the sun – winters can be long in the far north!

She found a great deal on a four-island trip round the Canaries; can’t be bad, I thought, but there is always a sting in the tail! The ship had a fire in a motor and sprung a leak, and, then, when we eventually docked in Tenerife the ship was surrounded by police.

They had found a passenger on board who was under an international arrest warrant. It made it a holiday to remember! Plus, and this was very appealing, money back and a holiday voucher, so not all bad!


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