Vet View: Facing the current industry challenges together

Duncan Berkshire, one of the lead vets within the five-vet pig team at Bishopton Veterinary Group, based in Yorkshire, offers reassuring words for producers struggling with the current situation facing the sector

So the New Year has been and gone. While all within our sector were hoping it would bring the vision of a clearer way forwards, a few weeks in and I’m not sure any of us are seeing it at, either close by or on the horizon…

There are certainly pressures all around and it is easy to end up feeling as if the odds are stacked against us each as individuals – but this is far from the truth. The pig sector is well known for being supportive and there will always be someone out there ready and willing to help.

From a veterinary perspective, it is common for people to reach out to us when there are health issues with their pigs, such as a flare of meningitis cases, or an increase in coughing, both of which have been common so far this winter.

This is understandable and sensible in order to help get on top of the issues and to help return the pigs to good health and productivity. It’s what we train for as vets.

Another area getting significant airtime is the potential welfare issues on farms as we face the current pig flow difficulties together. No-one could have foreseen the challenges that have hit every producer.

It’s all well and good having a contingency plan, as required by APHA and Red Tractor, but once we get many weeks into these issues, no-one has that much ‘spare’ capacity left.

Making sure you are talking with other producers, your vet, your advisors, and industry bodies is so important to make sure we don’t end up too insular with our thought processes – you will not be alone in tackling the challenges that are in front of you right now.

Juggling the flow of extra pigs on farm does create some potential issues. Health issues often jump out since they can be more obvious in the short term, but there is an impact on feed provision, water demands, ventilation, bedding use – the list goes on…

That’s why it’s important to talk to others. Your vet has the benefit of seeing many other farms, so may have options or ideas for these other areas of pig production, as well as being able to listen and advise.

Keeping the communication channels open to other producers can mean that you hear of other options more quickly too. Always making sure your channels for selling your pigs are fully informed of where you stand will also hopefully make sure the right pigs move at the right time.

Finally, keeping the likes of NPA and AHDB Pork on your radar will not only allow you to hear what is coming further down the line more promptly, but the two-way feeding of information from those on farm also allows a stronger case to be made to try and get things improved. This is the time to reach out and make sure the information flows…

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