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Home > News > Settled weather and stable market spark positive outlook, but disease concerns remain - PIG

Settled weather and stable market spark positive outlook, but disease concerns remain - PIG

17th Jun 2024 / By Alistair Driver

The more settled weather and a stable market has generated a much more positive outlook among pig producers, the latest meeting of the NPA’s Pig Industry Group (PIG) confirmed.

PIG June 24As always, however, the meeting also highlighted a number of issues of concern, from a recent spike in swine dysentery cases to the ever-present threat of African swine fever.

At the previous PIG in March, the relentless wet weather had been a big concern, affecting pig productivity, particularly on outdoor units, and raising fears about future straw and feed quality.

But commenting during the regional round up, Rattlerow’s Robin Lawson, based in the east of England, said: “The crops are in, and we've got pretty good-looking straw, so hopefully we won't be short of straw, which had been a worry for a lot of outdoor producers in the area.”

Fred Allen, from Nottinghamshire, echoed the comments, noting that concerns over straw had been alleviated in the Midlands. “The weather’s been a bit up and down, but it's favoured growth. The general mood in the industry in this area seems to be more positive. There are more openings for outlets that producers are tapping into, so there's more opportunity than threat, at the moment.”

Sam Ward, who farms in Lincolnshire, added that a large anaerobic digestion (AD) plant been approved near Louth, in the county, which is expected to take 130,000 tonnes of straw, which could affect straw prices, alongside 100,000 tonnes of cattle muck.

Joe Dewhirst, who farms in Yorkshire, said things were ‘fairly settled’ in the northern region, although he said the wet weather was still causing issues with spreading slurry on neighbouring farmland.

“Generally, things have been fairly stable and relatively positive. Feed prices were a bit worrying for a while, but wheat prices seem to come back in the last week,” he said.

Speaking before the SPP and APP recorded surprise declines, the marketing representative, Thames Valley Cambac’s Ollie Bown, said the pig market was ‘pretty stable’.

“At the moment people seem happy, and pigs are finding homes very easily. I’m not sure how strong demand is, but there are certainly a few less pigs just beginning to be offered, so there's some tightening there,” he said.

“There is a bit of concern from producers as feed goes up, and producers are surprised at the cost as they look at new buildings and refurbs.”

Regaining confidence

Lyndon Warkup, from buildings supplier AM Warkup, said the industry seemed to be regaining confidence in investing in new buildings, something he said that was highlighted at May’s British Pig & Poultry Fair, with a lot of interest on the building stands.

“The industry wants to move forward with their plans, but there is still a lot of uncertainty around flexible farrowing among producers,” he said.

The feed representative highlighted the ongoing uncertainty over soya sourcing, as a result of new UK and EU legislation coming into force next year, which will require sustainable sourcing of commodities that could potentially be produced as a result of deforestation.

“It’s still unknown on soya, which is really frustrating. I am hearing that you can buy soya for next year but it's not a guaranteed price. Cereal prices have come back a bit.”

Michelle Sprent, from Premier Nutrition, said cereals were actually ‘looking pretty good’, despite the concerns about the coming harvest, which is helping to mitigate the impact of fluctuations based on global events in terms of UK prices.

Processor representatives described retail demand as ‘pretty static’ and reiterated processor concerns over the ‘very strong commitments’ around sustainable soya from a number of retailers for the start of 2025, which come on top of the new legislation that is due to come into force. “This is going to affect all producers,” one said. “We are just keeping a very keen watching brief on that in terms of availability and also making sure that messages are passed through to farmers who may be buying soya directly.”

Swine dysentery concern

Producer representatives from the east and north highlighted increasing reports of swine dysentery in the region, including more cases discovered in abattoirs, a comment that was reinforced by the PIG veterinary representative, Gemma Thwaites, from Garth Pig Practice.

“I would completely agree that dysentery is creeping up and you can certainly see that in demand for treatment for it and the fact that there are more cases going on to the Significant Diseases Charter,” she said.

After some producers raised the question of possible under-reporting, she stressed that reporting cases to the charter was a Red Tractor requirement, while there was a clear responsibility on the vet to do so.

Pig Veterinary Society president Michael Putt said the problem, partly, was that the strains circulating did not always show typical symptoms, so clinical signs were sometimes being missed.  

The question of whether swine dysentery could in future be covered by the Pig Health & Welfare Pathway to ensure industry wide funding to tackling it was also raised.

There was also discussion on the implications of the end of zinc oxide withdrawal period on pig health and a possible increased use of medicines, while producers were reminded that the new veterinary medicines regulation is now in place, setting new restrictions on prophylactic and in-feed use of medicines.

Other topics discussed during the online meeting included:

  • The ever-present threat of African swine fever, as it continues to spread in Europe, including in domestic pigs in Germany, alongside concerns over the lack of funding for illegal meat import checks at Dover and elsewhere.
  • The NPA’s recent report on flexible farrowing systems in commercial settings.
  • The animal rights groups that continue to target the industry.
  • The NPA’s forthcoming new website and rebrand.
  • How the NPA is lobbying the parties during the general election.