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Nick White, February, 2017 

Yes, I was also there when TPT visited to lend support to our campaign with Winnie, and recall that Winnie playfully tried to nibble her leg (Hugh and I were quite jealous!).

I agree with Hugh that she was thoroughly professional and look forward to seeing any photographs that can be found of the occasion.


 

Hugh Crabtree, February 9, 2017

I'm very saddened by the news that Tara Palmer-Tomkinson has died. I expect quite a few of you will remember her contribution to our cause in 2000 in Parliament Square.

I confess at the time I was slightly surprised by Shandwick's (the company handling the vigil PR) choice of celebrity to help boost publicity for the industry's plight but I need not have worried. Tara was on time, actually knowledgeable about matters agricultural, co-operative and just good fun.

She certainly brought the press out. I have some good pictures of her on the stump with Winnie which I will ask Alistair to post when I have them scanned.

Meantime, on behalf of the NPA's then campaign group, my sincere condolences to Tara's family on her untimely death.


 

Hugh Crabtree, January 19, 2017

No pressure at all apparently! Excellent piece on the One Show last night and good job Richard and Duncan. Kershaw clearly nervous of the pigs - but they looked great and the whole thing a very positive message about the pig industry. Very well done.



Kate Morgan, January 10, 2017

An exciting and rare opportunity has opened up due to one of our fieldsman reaching retirement age! Pockmor is a successful and progressive family business who continue to grow through support from their excellent team.

The right candidate will have experience with nursery and finishing pigs and will be competent on farm machinery.

Dealing with pigs on a number of third party sites round East and North Yorkshire but also looking after 2 of our own sites.

A car, phone and good rate of pay awaits a reliable, loyal and forward thinking person.

Please contact Kate 07875 416842 for more information.



Richard Lister, January 6, 2017

No pressure then Hugh.

If we eventually make it to screen (the One Show) it is unknown at this point what part will be screened in the 4 minutes scheduled. Vet Duncan Berkshire put in an excellent performance and hopefully that will come across.



Hugh Crabtree, January 6, 2017

I expect a number of people heard Coilin Nunan interviewed on Farming Today this morning (link here). He of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics.

It seemed to me that he was rather behind the curve with respect to what the UK pig industry is doing and has achieved in reducing antibiotic use.

If someone like him is as ill-informed as he appeared to be then it clearly highlights the need for the comprehensive action being advocated by the NPA and AHDB Pork.

Or perhaps he knows perfectly well and just used the opportunity to mislead in order to keep the pressure on.

He credited the poultry sector with success but implied pig industry bodies are in denial about the need even to be taking action. He also said that pig farmers need a change of attitude. Roll on next week when Richard Lister gets the chance to set the record straight.



David Turton, December 20, 2016

What severe financial pressures failed to do, Osteoarthritis has managed, to stop me keeping any pigs.

Having started in 1976, I have a lot of memories and experiences. If I may I will express my thoughts concerning the decline in fresh pork consumption and tail biting as reported on your website.

Decline in Pork Consumption.

  1. In my opinion the Medical profession have ruined meat quality. Their constant demands that meat should be very lean for human health purposes have led to meat being extremely tough and lacking in taste. This is especially so with Pork. Natural fat is part of natures design, it is a reserve of energy to be used in times of challenged health, helps keep the mammal warm, strengthens the immune system, and adds significantly to the succulence and eating quality of the meat.
  2. Back in 1976 there were three distinctive selling weights of pig. Porker, up to 45Kg deadweight, for fresh meat consumption. Cutter, up to 60Kg deadweight, again fresh meat consumption. Baconer, 75Kg deadweight, as the name implies for making Bacon and other processed products. This weight of pig was never sold as fresh pork. The meat trade paid a differential price accordingly. There was always 13>15p per Kg more for a Porker pig than a Bacon pig, what ever the average price.

Since the advent of the EU single Market in 1992, UK pig Farmers have been forced through economic circumstances to increase the weight of finished pigs, to the point where the average deadweight is near 80Kg. Thus the British public are being only being offered fresh pork from pigs that are of a ‘Euro standard weight’ which is too lean, lacks succulence and taste and is tough to chew compared to the tradition Porker-Cutter pig that was used pre 1992. The quality eating experience of fresh Pork by the consumer has been completely abandoned by both Retailer and Farmer.

In my opinion, there needs to be some form of return to how it was in pre 1992, if economically feasible. For succulence and taste a quality pig needs 10>12 cm back fat, plus intra muscular fat. Also Ad lib fed to slaughter. 

Tail Biting

  1. Breed of pig, the quieter in nature the breed is, the incidence of tail biting reduces.

  2. Feed, nothing fancy that will upset the gut. In Human terms, quality Bangers, Mash and fresh Broad beans. A feeling of contentment, enjoyment, and the need to have a damn good snooze after eating. It is said that a pig will eat anything. May be, but if it feels irritable and uncontended having eaten, it is more likely to ‘take it out’ on its mates. If the feed the pigs are given also causes loose faeces this can lead to tail biting.   

I always found it a huge pleasure to see pens of pigs contently asleep having eaten well, and enjoy the sweet smell of quality pig turd.

I share these thoughts of my observations over many years, some most probably will disagree, but I hope it might be of help.



Mick Sloyan, December 16, 2016

Approximately two years ago AHDB Pork embarked on a strategy to Rejuvenate the Image of Pork featuring Pulled Pork. The strategy was essential because the British pork industry faced (and still faces) issues with falling consumption of pork, while the chicken market has enjoyed a sustained period of growth.

That is why we are planning to spend an extra £1 million over the next 3 years to Rejuvenate the Image of Pork. The next phase will feature Midweek Meals.  The goal is to position pork as an ideal choice for midweek meals by creating dishes that are relevant to consumers and meet the midweek meal criteria, which places health, convenience and a less than 30 minute cooking time as priorities.  This is where the biggest challenge lies.

Marrying an industry need with a consumer one is a complex task, especially for the midweek meal, where pork currently struggles to feature.  It goes without saying that we need to spend levy wisely so we are currently undertaking in depth consumer research to ensure the campaign hits the right mark with the consumer.  We also need the support of processors and retailers and we believe the best time to run this high profile campaign will be September 2017.

Changing consumer perceptions about pork will take several years to be achieved, and we believe that the best way the industry can do this is for the entire supply chain to work together.

The new AHDB strategy document is currently open for consultation. To view the document, visit, http://pork.ahdb.org.uk/about-ahdb-pork/consultation-on-the-ahdb-strategy-2017-2020-inspiring-success/ consultation closes 9 January 2017.



Tim Bradshaw, December 14, 2016

The latest news item illustrating the decline in pork consumption strengthens again how vital it is that new pork dishes should be developed and brought to the market as soon as possible.

Pulled pork is all well and good but we simply cannot afford to be a one trick pony. I would challenge AHDB to to demonstrate to us exactly what pork dishes are in development, to which market they are being aimed at and when and how they will be launched.



Meryl Ward, December 13, 2016

For anyone who hasn't heard but might like to attend, the funeral of Judy Brent, the wife of well-know pig industry consultant Gerry Brent, will be held at 11.30 on Tuesday, December 20, at St Hilary's Church at Spridlington.



Zoe Davies on behalf of NPA, November 30, 2016

We were so very sad to hear about Gerry Brent’s untimely loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with him at this awful time and we want him to know that we are all here for him if we can help in anyway at all.



Richard Lister, November 13, 2016

What a great night again. A huge well done to Simon, John and the Pig world team for putting on another really great event for the British pig industry.

Well done to all those who entered the awards and helped to make the evening such a success.

Again, many thanks to all our AIG members for their support and making the night such an enjoyable occasion.

Personally, I was incredibly honoured (chuffed a la Yorkshire) to receive the Chris Brant Award.

Having been on the inaugural training trip on how to shutdown a distribution centre with CB  and a certain JC, it had a certain extra special meaning.

A big thank you and here's to prosperous pig farming.



Richard Longthorp, November 12, 2016

Another great National Pig Awards event and a big thankyou to John Lewis and his team for allowing us to incorporate the Chris Brant Award into the proceedings.

A self-confessed curmudgeonly, grumpy, old northern git, and initially ambivalent about the awards event, I have to admit that these awards have been a huge success. They have also given the Chris Brant Award the platform it needs to do full justice to those great people who receive it each year. 

And never could that be truer than this year when NPA Chairman Richard Lister and his team of wonderful ladies received standing ovations.

If we all stop and think about it, we all know they do a cracking job. But what a great opportunity to be able to tell them so. And 300+ people did just that on Wednesday night

From my vantage point at the front reading the citations I had the benefit of seeing the faces of Richard and his team as, about halfway through each citation, it suddenly dawned on them who I was talking about. And form a facial expression of “I wonder who it’s going to be”, it suddenly changed to an absolutely genuine and shocked “Oh my God, he’s talking about me”

And this is another characteristic of both Richard and the NPA “A” Team. Whilst they do a fantastic job, they all absolutely ooze humility and modesty.

The industry would be hard pressed to find better.



Stephen Hall, November 4, 2016

The vote to decide the distribution ratio of the finite, statutory levy fund is a vote carrying much import. 

Is it a ‘no brainer’? 

Selling more pig meat is the result of successful marketing. Experience indicates that enduringly successful marketing is based, in part, on the story that is told. Science is currently telling a fascinating story of the joining up of discoveries made over many years, that people all over the world will undoubtedly benefit from. The depth and breadth of the possibilities being explored along the various pathways in the study of the microbiome and DNA are beginning to shine a light on the future for livestock farming, as well as that of humankind. 

Before we commit to more money for more marketing we need to think about the story we want to tell. Some of that story will be rooted in the outcome of current and future research and development, proving and disproving, with integrity, meaning and myth. Building trust into our marketing message is a big part of the challenge facing us as an industry, across the board.



Tim Bradshaw, October 31, 2016 

I was able to question Meryl at last week’s NPA regional meeting and am pleased to say that she confirmed that new lines are being developed, but that it can take up to 12 months for any new product to be launched.

I do hope that this will be vigorously pursued through to the end and not left in a permanent state of development. Forgive my scepticism, but I remember someone telling me back in the late 90’s that MLC had loads of brilliant recipes and products in their Milton Keynes facility but that is where they remained!

Meryl also said that we should vote on how much of the AHDB budget should be spent on marketing; for me, this is a no brainer, ie, we should increase the percentage but I guess that a properly conducted survey should take place somehow.



Stephen Hall, October 29, 2016

One of the increasingly evident characteristics of pig meat, is its versatility. This application to innovation is a great strength. I agree with Richard it would be good to find a new partner. Today, however, pig meat is being consumed from fine dining through the community of the Barbeque to people on the move. 

My generation must embrace the ‘new-fangled’. Top chefs are peppering Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with mouthwatering images of their latest creations across every kind of eating experience. The food world does engage with pig meat and people engage with the food world. Heritage is one of many things that social media celebrates and as we know every tradition began with innovation, pig meat has history and its versatility continues to maintain its significance in the food chain. 

We should be publishing through this  new-fangled technology ‘10 things you didn’t know about Pork’; such is its versatility.

The first ‘10 things’ could go a long way to scotching long held myths about pork. Which reminds me I bought a scotch egg from a client’s farm shop and butchery a couple of weeks ago. It was food on the move. The egg was soft centered and the meat casing was finely chopped bacon, I am quite partial to a scotch egg and this is the best one I have ever eaten.



Richard Lister, October 27, 2016

Tim  is quite correct in that we were trying to create a new product development competition with a major retailer. This seemed to get bogged with the retailer and its inability to make decisions and get things done.
My view  is that we need to revisit this but with a different partner.
Many thanks to all those that attended and contributed to the regional meetings.
Feedback is hugely appreciated by the team in order to focus direction and understand what issues we need to address.



Tim Bradshaw, October 19, 2016

It would appear to me that the current happier prices we are receiving are purely as a result of the weak pound allied to a strong demand from China, ( blindingly obvious ) ; this may continue for several months, (hopefully), BUT it worries me that UK consumption of pig meat has not increased and EU consumption has fallen. So, what progress has been made on rectifying this in terms of producing suitable pork dishes for the convenience food market?

When my wife and daughter abandon me helpless and hungry , I usually nip down to M & S for a 20 minute heat up and eat special but I’m getting rather sick of fish pie and would like to see some pork escalopes or similar !

There was a competition to create a pork ready meal I seem to remember when times were hard a few months ago so I sincerely hope that proper product development is proceeding at pace.



Alistair Driver, October 17, 2016

I have received one or two messages suggesting the farrowing debate would be better continued in the members' part of the site. I'm inclined to agree. So for more, go to the members' area. 



Stephen Hall, October 15, 2016

designI was privileged to be amongst a well-attended Eastern regional NPA meeting this week. The content and quality of the evening is a credit to Zoe, Lizzie and Georgina. The passion evident in the constructive exchanges of discussion matched that of Victoria Morgan in her post below. It is grist to the mill. We are capable, as an industry, of success especially when such passion is drawn out. This is what gives our message its integrity and our industry its dignity.

We are not really confronting an either/or in most of the issues that we naturally face as an industry. It is more that we face defining the appropriate solutions to the relevant problems. Too much legislation can squeeze this, constraining possibilities before they have been properly and rigorously tested.

What Victoria says about the challenges of her system; the reality of market opportunity and the risk of opening up to the consumer and, the difficulty in trying to balance commercial efficiency and husbandry care, in the face of the perceptions of production systems, are accurately articulated.

However, it is the passion of her argument and that of others wherein a key may be worth exploring. One issue this week at the meeting was the subject of delaying sexual maturity in slaughter generation males. Deeper consideration is, at last, being given to the possible benefits of this for the industry, this is because the discussion is including not the just the cost versus cost efficiency, whether there is or isn’t improved performance, but also positive welfare and processing benefits. As Victoria says, on another issue, the sensitive aspect of this is opening up to the consumer. The current conclusion is that the retailers, being all powerful, have mounted a double guard at the equivalent of ‘Check-point Charlie’.

We are able to approach this from different angles and we can do this strengthened by the integrity and dignity that passion, authenticates. The UK is not self-sufficient in pig meat production. I believe it is produces about 40% of the requirement. The retailers stand sentinel, on the fact that British pig meat in the main, is just ‘stuck’ in front of the average consumer alongside the imported options. If we are only 40% of the requirement, then we only need to target 40% of the consumers. I know this is too simplistic initially but we need to think about which 40% we want to sell to and about how much of the 40% we produce we can genuinely target at the selective consumer.

The passion of Victoria Morgan and several other producers would speak over the heads of some retailers, whose own integrity has been publicly called into question in recent months, directly to consumers who are naturally more resourceful and, as a result, can afford better quality, are interested in making a responsible contribution to sustainability and developing skills in purchasing, cooking and sharing this expression of strong character. This week a further subject was the improvement of eating quality of British pig meat. At present we are trying to nail jelly to the wall in marketing not just our product, but ourselves because, in general, we do not, yet, have a handle on consistency and integrity of quality. At the same meeting we were assured by AHDB in their well-qualified contributions, that these issues are being pursued. It requires everyone to think as the people we want to sell our pig meat to, think. And engage directly with them.



Nigel Mears, October 14, 2016

 

Regards the freedom farrowing malarkey, it should be up to the stockman to decide on the welfare of his sows, some will be happy using one system, others will use something else, its called freedom of choice. Hell if we are happy with our system leave it be, we live in a democracy you know!!



Victoria Morgan, October 14, 2016

I am a strong believer in freedom farrowing and having operated 72 freedom pens every five weeks for the past 5 years feel I know quite a lot about it too! I am passionate about finding an alternative to the crate because I firmly believe a sow would prefer to farrow where she can exhibit her natural behaviour in terms of nesting particularly. 

I have shown a lot of people around our unit from industry experts to school children and teachers and the general public for open farm Sunday. Without fail they all prefer to see the sows in the freedom pens. Granted, most had no understanding of the financial implications but most hadn't ever seen farrowing sows in a crate - they have no idea how sows farrow and most are horrified to see them confined in a crate!

Our system has many flaws to it - we were never going to design the perfect pen first time, however, the sad reality is there is no market for this product and we are not in a position to redesign and build more without a long term customer. We all want people to eat more pork but no one is prepared to show people how we do it, we are scared of them seeing the realities of commercial indoor pig farming. 

Commercial Indoor pig production is based on numbers out of the door as cheaply as possible to compete with the imports. Freedom farrowing and for that matter straw based finishing does not fit this spec and probably never will in terms of efficiencies but I know what and how I would rather see my sows. Finally, I also farm 1200 outdoor sows and know exactly what it's like to farrow a sow outdoors..... in rain or shine!



Stephen Hall, October 13, 2016

The singular response of Mr Savile is interesting; ‘What this industry needs is a stable market’. History tells us that this has so far been unachievable and that we try to do our best through ‘marketing’ our product at the end of a trail, that increasingly leads some of today’s consumers and anti-livestock farming lobbyists back to the farm. In the UK we are far from self-sufficient in pig meat production, this requires a marketing strategy that differentiates us from our global competition. The invention of the British premium, originally predicated on the outdoor production system which is intellectually a primary factor relative to the rules politicians derive to assuage the consumer, is being consigned to the same history that teaches us that a stable market is virtually impossible. Marketing will not succeed as a prevention it must ultimately provide the cure.
 
Mr Savile asks that, ‘we keep freedom farrowing out of the spotlight and concentrate on ways which you could make this industry more sustainable’. I would go further and suggest that we turn all the spotlights off. Politics is not the new mathematics. Politics cannot answer every question. Both the appeal and the intelligence of politics is increasingly limited, deluding only its authors.
 
Farmers in Essex are having to re-plan for failing Autumn sowing of hundreds of acres. The temperate climate of the UK will, thankfully, enable this. In the same way this climate has, in comparatively recent times, produced an industry with an almost 50/50 ratio of indoor to outdoor production, which has focussed the welfare possibilities. The global ratio of these production systems is more likely to be 99/1 and, if welfare is to be the primary concern of the consumer, politically speaking, you can bet your bottom dollar the 99 will use marketing to level the playing field as much as possible against the 1.
 
With all the spotlights turned off, our industry politicians need to engage with their constituency at a far deeper level and begin answering questions that are more important than freedom farrowing. Questions that focus on the balance of efficiency and care not just practically but in the minds of consumers. Bearing in mind what the global production is currently either doing or considering carefully, a far more important question relates to legislation involving male and female slaughter generation pigs and a solution widely accepted by producers and consumers. In the UK it has been stonewalled for too long. The Weekly Tribune succeeded in getting an agreement for a derogation to be granted. But there is still a draconian attitude to this and we are in the 11th hour of opportunity. The regulation of the oestrus cycle is common practice and has enhanced the balance of efficiency and care. I suggest that there is a contradiction in the acceptance of this by our politicians and the current sense of rejection surrounding the regulation of sexual maturity in the slaughter population.



Geoff Saville, October 12, 2016

Reading recent posts and after reading the recent article in pig world makes me think what the hell is going on. The supermarkets continue their price war the consumer is always looking for cheaper product and we want to add cost to production. What this industry needs is a stable market environment which encourages investment and allows the next generation to take this industry forward not a political project just designed to make the minority happy.

Keep freedom farrowing out of the spot light and concentrate on ways which you could make this industry more sustainable. As you can tell I am not political just a realist without my head stuck into blue sky thinking. Just for the record I have had freedom farrowing crates and they do not work, they create higher mortality, the sow is more stressed and as for nesting please tell me how you can get a sow to nest when they are on slats, if you want freedom farrowing put your sows outside. The best thing I did was to scrap the crates.



Stephen Hall, October 9, 2016

Meryl, I would argue that I have not missed the point of the welfare of the sow. This factor would be covered in the design of the ‘confinement’ accommodation. The natural requirements of the sow must be included in the definition of the nature of confinement. I have raised the fact that pre-weaning mortality, when measured indicates that there must be a rethinking of management practice/expectation, that includes the ‘welfare’ of the sow, the piglet and the farmer’s business.  What has been decided with little recourse to science or pig producers, is that ‘non-confinement’ is non-negotiable, characteristic of a political decision. This is predictable, with no room given for atypical thinking. No amount of increased stimulation of oxytocin and prolactin, or immunoglobulin for that matter, is going to address the statistics that I have reported.

Your direction of travel does not seem that compelling. Sweden are the only country in your list to feature in the AHDB international costings publication, and they have one of the highest production costs. The concept of a voluntary 10% of Danish farmers within 5 years, and the obedience of Austrian farmers by 2033 is not a migration that causes too much anxiety. What are the ‘potential’ opportunities. That much vaunted opportunity the ‘premium’, has been subsumed in the European, jostling for an appealing market position in relation to the consumer. I assume that opportunity means a sympathetic governments’ support. If this is so, we urgently need to know more as we are entering, what is historically, an increased investment stage in the cyclical economics of pig production.

The political imposition of any system can be simultaneously, triumphant and catastrophic. Intellectually and emotionally ‘freedom farrowing’ is a ‘no brainer’ but this does not guarantee any overall improvement in the consumer perception of the production of pig meat or the safety of those endearing little piglets they adore. The statistics that I reported do little to foreshorten the practical implications of this decision. The challenge for every pig farmer is the balance of exploitation and nurture, to be efficient and to care. We wean sows to exploit them and we mate sows to nurture them. This characterizes the work of a pig farmer and the requirement of the consumer.Pig farming is about indefinite and dependable production, a philosophical prerequisite of the nature of the demand for food. Exploitation is as little work for as great a gain, and nurture is a reasonable balance between the time taken and the standard reached that is sustainable on all levels. It is an equation of quantity over character.

I am encouraged by the last part of statement that you make in your reply; our customers would expect Government and industry to work to reconcile the disconnect of science, economics and public perception.’

In my previous forum post I made reference to having raised issues through journalistic opportunity, I have worked for over 45 years in this industry, yet I do not feel included the industry effort to reconcile the critical disconnect that you rightly, raise. Of course we cannot have a world and his wife consensus, nothing would get done. What disappointed me about what I read in Pig World, as much as the subjects themselves pleased me, was the sense that, animal welfare will, through elevated cost, drive production into fewer hands and standard UK pig meat production become increasingly endangered by the wide variation in the financial and social status of the individual consumer. We must not humanise the pig beyond the natural order. Animal health and welfare, if it is not properly considered will irreparably damage the balance of efficiency and care, in order to achieve a triumphant political end in a catastrophic market. It is not as ridiculous as it might appear to suggest that the issue of animal welfare in food production, instead of uniting actually has the potential to further divide the industry, body and soul.



Meryl Ward, October 9, 2016

Stephen highlights a valuable debate on free-farrowing.  There are two main points, I would like to address.  Firstly to put the spotlight on the focus that ‘totally free farrowing’ or ‘temporary crating for the first few days’ is receiving in other countries, mostly achieved with substantial Government support.

Some countries – Sweden, Norway and Switzerland - have already moved away from confinement.  Others have plans in place too through voluntary measures – Denmark 10% by 2021 – and legislation e.g Austria by 2033.  Given that producers invest in buildings for a life-span of 20 years plus, it would be wrong not to flag the direction of travel and potential opportunities. 
 
Stephen’s article misses the point that confinement of the sow before and during farrowing is a welfare issue for the sow as it prevents the sows in-built need for ‘nest building’ behaviour. Emerging science suggests that allowing the sow to nest build also has production benefits. Strategic use of large amounts of nest building materials may stimulate shorter farrowings through production of higher levels of oxytocin and prolactin.

This may result in lower stillbirths with more viable piglets as they access the teats quicker.  If the sows produce colostrum more efficiently, piglets may be healthier through higher levels of immunoglobulins or as a minimum grow faster through better milk let-down. 
 
There is a long way to go to realise the benefits whilst keeping piglets and stock people safe but our customers would expect Government and industry to work to reconcile the disconnect of science, economics and public perception.’



Alistair Driver, October 8, 2016

Interesting comments from AHDB Pork's Stephen Howarth in response to Richard's Lister's calls for a fairer EU price comparison (see news article, October 8). Will be very interesting to see what comes out of this work.

First port of call will be to establish just how marked the differences are. If they are on anything like the scale Richard calculates this needs to be addressed and quickly. Anyone else have any thoughts on this, to back Richard up (or otherwise!).

And Stephen Hall's observations, below, on this but also farrowing crates are well worth a read. As the author of the farrowing crate article, all I would add is that those at the free farrowing conference believe one of the drivers for this is public opinion. Or, at least, a belief, if it isn't now it will be soon. 

The question being asked was, can we find alternatives that are more acceptable to the public and work for the sow and for the farmer. The answer at the moment appeared to be no, especially in the absence of any notable supply buy in. But the work continues. 



Stephen Hall, October 6, 2016

Pig World dropped through my door today and it made gratifying reading to see so many of the issues I have raised, in Weekly Tribune in recent months, being reported as making it onto the industry agenda re: pricing structure and industry reform, and pig meat eating quality or into specific articles that include mention of carcass rectification, a cohesive plan driven by outcome and collaborative management strategy meetings that include all the stakeholders of a business. But then I read of the continuing search for the Holy Grail (or at least another one to go with the one Monty Python pursued many years ago). The whole search for the answer to Freedom Farrowing is predicated on the freedom of the sow to express itself, naturally? We all know the historic outcome of that as well as the current outcome for outdoor producers still grappling with arc design.

 

Why are we basing all of the argument on the need to release the sow? Freedom Farrowing misses the point of efficient and welfare effective production of pig meat. The focus must be on ‘freedom lactation’ and the optimum welfare friendly point at which this is compulsorily introduced following a confined parturition of indoor sows.

 

I carried out some detailed analysis of pre-weaning mortality data from a single indoor unit a few years ago and the results made interesting reading.

 

The percentage of piglets laid on of the total number of piglet deaths in the report period was just shy of 53%. Within the first three days’ post farrowing, 89% of these deaths occurred, this increased to 91% in the first week. A further 11% of deaths were attributed to piglets recorded with a low-viability at birth. Not surprisingly 97% of these died within the first three days and 100% within the first week. This statistic accounts for 64% of pre-weaning mortality and I believe that greater research would conclude a similar result. A further 12% of piglets were lost to scour, 58% of these pigs died in between days 4 and 14 with less than 20% dying in the first 3 days. The only other significant cause of piglet loss recorded was starvation at 10% of which 83% died in the first 14 days. The combination of recorded defect, 3.7% and miscellaneous 6.3% adds a further 10%. Of piglets recorded with a defect 77% understandably died in the first three days and the deaths recorded as miscellaneous were fairly evenly distributed throughout lactation. Crate or no crate, management practice impacts as much as the 40% of piglet deaths attributed to a combination of recorded non-viable pigs (should these be recorded as alive?), scouring, savaging and miscellaneous. In all 96 % of piglet deaths in this analysis died from being laid on, being recorded as non-viable or defected, scours and starvation and unexplainable. The significant statistic is that 70% of the piglets died in the first three days. A further 20% died between days 4 and 14. The design and cost of freedom farrowing is, respectively, a pointless conundrum and threatening imposition without justification. Better (first week) crate/pen design, and facing the real challenge for management of a 24/7 shift structure for farrowing days that could revolutionize the working week in indoor pig production, in what to be fair is becoming a 24/7 working world, are the considerations we should be making as an industry. It is encouraging that the industry is finally embracing issues that, to some, have been obvious for a long time. We must grasp what might feel at times like a pretty spiteful nettle, the initial burn soon becomes but a tingle and then just a memory.

 

The stall ban made complete sense in relation to the concerns of consumers over the welfare of the confined sow. It bears no relation to the employment of the farrowing crate, in the confinement of the sow which is in the interest of the welfare of the piglet. The pursuit of welfare is barking up the wrong tree, the farrowing crate protects both the sow and the piglet. And the business interest of the producer. What we need to be considering is 24/7 farrowing management and ‘Freedom Lactation’ post the sow’s confinement, this should be the correct compromise in appealing to public sensibilities.



Richard Longthorp, September 27, 2016

Well done and many thanks to David Owers on the Politics Show. Pigs looked very content in all that straw and even the politicians in the studio were impressed. All grist to the mill as we battle to get a fair deal out of Brexit



Digby Scott, September 6, 2016

I’d like to thank Zoe and her AMAZING team — Lizzie, Andrea, George and Alistair — and all the NPA producer and allied industry friends who gave me such a warm and enjoyable send-off on Monday night. Few other industries, I suspect, are rooted in such enduring fellowship.

It was quite an emotional evening and Ann and I were very touched by your kind words, although I felt a bit of a fraud at times. I’m not departing altogether because I’ll be keeping in touch with NPA of course, and Crichton says I have to keep the Traffic Lights website going at tlspot.co.uk, at least until he retires, or more likely expires in harness.

Thanks everyone, especially you Zoe, Lizzie, George, Andrea and Alistair. And it was good to see you again Katie.



Hugh Crabtree, September 2, 2016

A user of our technologies in the USA - currently at 15,000 sows but putting down another 20,000 at the moment - is needless to say all indoors. Their 5000 sow breeder units use ESF and achieve 36.5 weaned and the whole operation 10,000 lbs pig sold per bred animal per year. These are world class performance stats at very large scale.

What's the secret? The production vice president of the company describes himself as a "simple pig farmer" but the company's philosophy (secret) is that the pig is at the heart of everything they do.

They are totally pig centric and have a system that pays great attention to detail. For example, every single farrowing is attended which means labour costs at this stage are high but the simple pig farmer says it's worth every cent. His vision is to create an intensive production system that is based on the highest standards of stockmanship and has the health and welfare of the pigs as the top priority in everything they do. And guess what? The biology responds in spades.

Given the amount of meat protein that the world is demanding we absolutely need super efficient indoor production like this that can argue that it cares passionately for the livestock in its care and demonstrate that with performance figures to be proud of. Any number of people have been through this system to challenge the figures and not one has come out anything other than bloody impressed.

If simple pig farmers stateside can do it then so can we and for me it's great to be part of that success over there as well as very similar successes over here. And over here we have the added bonus of wide choice for the consumer. So good indoor every bit as good as good outdoor - it all has to be good if we want a sustainable future in pig production.

I too share Tim Bradshaw's niggling worry that all overt promotion focused on extensive systems will be found out eventually. Let's be ready to be able to show the consumer our intensive systems are also something to be proud of. We're doing our bit to develop the tools of the modern pig production management trade. Money's cheap, we're export competitive - invest, invest, invest!



Richard Longthorp
August 26, 2016

Tim Bradshaw makes a good point. And what the message needs to be is not only that good indoor can be as good as good outdoor but that the British consumer is probably in a unique position. Their choice is huge – far greater than probably any other country. From highly efficient and welfare friendly indoor systems to outdoor bred/indoor finished, outdoor reared/indoor finished, free-range and organic. And each of these has its own price point. So choice of production method and choice of price point.
 
As we enter the uncharted territory of negotiating new trade deals post Brexit, it will be more critical than ever that all producers, no matter what their system of production, stand shoulder to shoulder (just as we did in 1998/99) and promote like hell the benefits of high welfare British pig production.



Richard Lister
August 22, 2016

A big well done to LIPS on their CountryFile slot last night in particular Sally and Sue. It came over very well and showed the industry doing something positive.



Tim Bradshaw
August 22, 2016

I believe the Jay Rayner article has also appeared in The Guardian and to me is typical of how the United Kingdom pig industry is portrayed in the meagre sympathetic media coverage that we enjoy.

Yet again, outdoor reared/bred and straw-finished is promoted as typical United Kingdom-produced pork whilst the minority 60 percent plus are condemned 'to the dark side ' where the pigs suffer.

Great advertising for Anna and all you others who have built fantastic businesses and brands on what you do but I fear that this constant imagery of the battling United Kingdom pig industry with outdoor sows in sunny dry fields or scampering growers playing in pristine barley strawed-p yards will bite us on the arse at some point.

The plus points of indoor production should be emphasised or at the very least not condemned; I, for one, am proud to be a pig producer albeit on the dark side!



Richard Dunning
August 16, 2016 

Today at about lunchtime we had two girls arrive saying they were from the Ministry and that I had been selected at random for a pig welfare check, something I found very odd. I was just off to a family funeral and was not in the best frame of mind to be dealing anyone, let alone some nosey buggers that wanted to poke around my farm. They became insistent that they wanted to look around and by this time I'd had enough and told them exactly where to go, and they left. They offered no form of identification and I just wondered if anyone else has encountered a similar occurrence.



Robin Wilson
August 14, 2016

I can't find where to enter the 'name who is with the fabulous LIP's ladies' photos competition on the homepage. Not that I have a clue who these people are. Can you tell me as I am not one of the younger audience when the results will be published and the people named?



Stephen Howarth
August 11, 2016

Price premium

Ian, I wouldn't worry about the permanent loss of the premium just yet. There have been a number of times when the UK price has dropped below the EU average before and it has always moved back above it fairly quickly – the chart below illustrates the point. Although we're living in unusual times, I'd expect the same to happen again this time. The gap is already starting to narrow, down to 7p in the latest week, having been 12p a month ago.



Ian Broumpton
August 7, 2018

So where has the British premium gone. All our rules and regulations and higher welfare look as if they are worthless. Anything will do when theres a shortage it appears. Comments please (oh and don't try telling me about what we have had in the past as I live for the present and the future hopefully).



Philip Sleigh
July 15, 2016    

Hi Alan, you could maybe try a wall, then maybe some sort of cover, and then he-presto you have a building! Welcome to modern pig farming!!!


Alan Stannett
July 13, 2016    

Has anyone got any recommendations for a good fox fence for an outdoor pig unit? Number wires, spacing etc.



Pete Luther 
July 1, 2016    

Good to see all the uk pig producers vote in the brexit poll (45 of them) going back to the supermarkets saying produce less for more money, is 38% not low enough! Would they like less than that? I've expanded my contracting business now and all but finished with the pigs, I have a rising bank balance and a lot less stress, it's highly recommended. I'm just waiting for the where are your pigs call from the abbatoire!



David Owers
June 30, 2016    

How many? Not too difficult, 14 piglets + Mum = 15. The little piglet at the top was fostered on to a gilt the next day. This is our best sow. Parity 1 = 19 alive -6 fostered. Parity 2 = 17 alive -4 fostered. 13 pigs reared/litter x 2.41 = 31.33 reared +10 = reared by others = 41.33 reared +0% mortality. Needless to say her next litters will be from damline semen. This brings me nicely onto a subject that does concern me that the ability of sows to rear all these extra piglets does not push us down the same path as Denmark/Holland where there has been a consumer backlash to high pre-weaning mortality caused by too many piglets been born, 16+ born alive + 20% pre-weaning mortality + increased sow mortality. Our best sow would not have been able to rear all her piglets without the help of two sows that had smaller litters. I know there are management tools like Rescue Decks + extra suckling sows, but my understanding is that Rescue Decks do not work as well in the United Kingdom because Red Tractor quite rightly does not allow blood plasma to be used in the milk as is used in the rest of Europe (hope supermarkets are aware of this). Also extra suckling is not easy when you are 3 week batch farrowing as opposed to weekly farrowing.


Andrew Freemantle
June 27, 2016    

Well, you can only play the had you are dealt, and the Uunited Kingdom pig industry's one is out of Europe. So as I watch the £ drop to a fairer level with are European neighbours (why should they have a currency advantage anyway?) I am wondering if we should use some of this unexpected windfall, to help us market the best pork in the world around the world even more. Cranswick I hear, send a ship a week to the Far East. Let's make that two ships. Enough are coming the other way. I hesitate to say more levy after the last year or so, but surely as an industry we should be considering improving are trading ties across the world. An extra 30p on the levy, would bring back approx. £300k. Cull sows went up £5 per head on Friday on currency movements alone.


John Mackinnon
June 17, 2016    

Colistin resistance in the United States. Interesting. What the piece on this website did not say was that (to the best of my knowledge) the only colistin presentation licensed for use in livestock in USA is an injectable product for chicks of 1-3 days of age in the face of acute E. coli infection with associated mortality. The epidemiology of resistance genes for colistin (and probably for all other antibiotics as well) does not necessarily require the use of the antibiotic. Too much hype. Too much politics. Sad the political steamroller has passed over us and we have just accepted it all. Makes me think of the student who stood in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square. Only one of him then and just a handful of us now.


Georgina Crayford
June 13, 2016    

Just wanted to say a big Thank You to A-One Feed on behalf of the Young NPA members who were able to attend the EPP Congress last month in Dublin thanks to their very generous sponsorship. A great time was had by all - it was a fantastic opportunity to catch-up with European colleagues and friends and exchange ideas. Overall a really valuable conference to attend. Thanks again A-One!


Hugh Crabtree
May 26, 2016    

Livestock production is coming under increasing pressure from all kinds of quarters and the direction of travel is very clear: more regulation, more compliance and more challenges from those that would rather livestock husbandry was only as depicted on biscuit tins and the like. It is indeed a very good thing that we have a knowledgable and professional team of women looking after the interests of the United Kingdom industry. The resources of the association have to be paid for of course and the only source of income is membership subscriptions. When individual companies get targeted for attention of any kind, if they are non-members they often then join the association having had its value closely demonstrated first hand. It is also interesting that following the recent spate of incursions one or two more businesses have decided to join. Perhaps there's no connection. But here's the point: protecting our interests and dealing with aggressive and often downright rude people who only mean us harm - at pretty much all hours of the day and night - costs both in financial and emotional terms. If you've got anything to do with the United Kingdom Pig Industry - producer, allied trade, associate, supporter, then please join and pay your dues. You don't need first hand experience to recognise the value of insurance and access to quality support. And that support will very much appreciate knowing that you support them.


Philip Sleigh
May 25, 2016    

I would also like to thank Richard for his good work on Panorama, and the wider team at NPA. It just shows yet again why we need organisations like NPA! My real gripe with the programme was why were they going about in darkness taking samples of muck and slurry? Made it look like we were hiding something in our muckheaps, bizarre! The most revealing thing on the show was the colour of the straw. I thought if you farmed in the land of milk and honey your straw was always golden!!!


Gareth Virgo
May 24, 2016    

May I tip my hat to Richard Lister and the rest of the NPA team on the excellent work done on last night's Panorama programme and also the daily work of fending off criticism of our industry wether it be from animal rights or some ill informed journalist.


Richard Lister 
May 24, 2016    

A big thank you and well done to those people who helped us make the programme, "a damp squib" in terms of the pig industry. A lot of work went in from both NPA and AHDB in order that we were well prepared and able to withstand the Panorama tactics. A great team effort. Thanks in particular to John Bates of AHDB for his coaching. Moving on the next stage is populating the electronic medicine book, which has had a great start, but if you haven't done it then please get your data entered. Data entry is very easy, even I managed do ours in very little time (one site for the year at less than half an hour.) This is the essential information in order to kick-start NPA's Pig Industry Antibiotic Stewardship Programme.


Andrew Freemantle
May 24, 2016    

I watched said programme, was rather a damp squib in my opinion. Fun watching Helen Browning explain how her pigs' dung samples were contaminated as well… those pesky AMR dung fairies. Though the most shocking piece of journalism was on Farming Today yesterday morning when Tom heap stated that Richard Lister ran the NPA. I bet Zoe, Lizzie, Georgie, Andrea and Digby found that most amusing.


Charlie Allen
May 24, 2016 

I just wanted to say what a great job our NPA team have done on behalf of our industry in mitigating the potential impact of the Panorama programme last night. That together with the support they have given to our business in dealing with an animal rights undercover filming make me feel very humble. This is for me as clear a demonstration as you could ever have of getti