The atmosphere at this year's British Pig & Poultry Fair was pretty bullish, with more smiles than frowns, as producers have been in profit for most of 2013....
Like many trade fairs around Europe, the British Pig and Poultry Fair is held every two years in mid May at Stoneleigh, near Coventry. Unlike the other salons a pre-requisite is to take two pairs of footwear, as quaintly, the visitor car parks are not paved with concrete or tarmac but are, as is usual for British farming events, grass fields which get very muddy should it have rained before or during the show.
Another special aspect of the UK pig fair is the amount of show space devoted to companies making equipment for outdoor pigs, as over 40% of UK production is outdoors, or as the French call it, 'camping pigs'.
The atmosphere at this year's show was pretty bullish, with more smiles than frowns, as producers have been in profit for most of 2013.
Building companies at the show were busy, with farmers looking to revamp facilities rather than build new sow capacity, with the UK sow herd remaining around the 400,000 sow mark - it was double that ten years ago. Higher pig prices, of course, also give some producers the chance to sell up. The British Pig Executive (BPEX) has been pushing the 2 tonnes of pigmeat/ sow concept for some time, to get output in line with the continent, but it still remains at around 1.9 tons/ sow. Numbers born alive/ litter are still below the EU average. Part of this can be contributed to the UK's large outdoor sow population, nevertheless, most figures for GB indoor breeding herds are still below the EU average. In all UK breeding herds in 2009, the number of pigs born alive stood at 11.22.
In 2013 it had risen to just 11.87, an increase of just 0.65 in four years. BPEX has an excellent technical website plus a national team of pig advisers. In addition, top quality technical workshops are put on all over the country on a regular basis, but it would just seem that the information related to boosting herd productivity is not getting through to Mr UK Average Pig Producer. Undoubtedly he or she is the producer that would claim that he or she is far too busy running the pig unit to spend an afternoon at a conference. A classic case of 'not being able to see the wood for the trees'.
Mick Sloyan is the director of BPEX. In his 2014 Pig fair speech he highlighted several encouraging aspects of the UK industry.
1. UK production is likely to reach 850,000 tonnes (carcass weight) this year, which will be the sixth consecutive year of modest growth in UK output.
2. UK supermarkets have shown strong support for British pig meat, not just 'top end' ones such as Marks & Spencer and Waitrose but also the cost conscious retailers such as Aldi and Lidl;
3. The Red Tractor scheme is well known now to consumers and trusted;
4. Exports, in particular to China of pork and pork products (fifth quarter) were worth in excess of £335 million in 2013;
5. British pigs are in demand and this has been reflected in the price differential between UK and EU prices. In the last 12months this has been about 18/kg, worth over £14 per pig to British producers;
6. Future: The outlook is positive- with feed costs looking to ease, margins should remain positive as long as the demand for British pork and pork products can be maintained at home and abroad;
7. Challenges: PEDv. This has had a devastating effect in the USA and Canada and extreme vigilance is needed in managing the threat of PEDv re the UK industry in terms of improving biosecurity and other measures.
BPEX – Going For Growth strategy – the five year plan
• Close the Gap – help industry improve its technical performance against our competitors
• Protect the Environment – UK has already improved its carbon footprint by 24% over the last 4 years.
• Enhance Pig Welfare – UK has a deserved reputation that must be protected.
• Encourage Safe and Traceable Pork- this is basic to maintaining consumer confidence.
• Help Sell More Pork – we want to rejuvenate the image of pork amongst consumers as well as encouraging them to look for the Red Tractor.
New product award
Getting the amino acid balance correct in diets, especially those fed to finishers is vital and using natural ingredients my result in a surplus of some amino acids which end up being deaminated, which is very wasteful. In view of this, Northern Ireland based Devenish Nutrition have created an unique concentrated protein, DeviGainPG which supplies amino acids in a targeted form which the pig can utilise more effectively. It improves DLWG & FCR also reduces nitrogen excretion by 25% and under UK conditions gave a net margin increase of £4 per pig.
JSR Genetics always are present at the show and this year JSR were promoting their Geneconverter 900 sireline, which is producing excellent fast growing progeny. Linda Gibbs, CEO of Waldo Genetics and daughter of the owner and founder, Max Waldo had flown over from Nebraska to attend the show. "The Waldo White Duroc is used with the Landrace to produce the JSR outdoor Genepacker 150 gilt, which doesn't give colour with coloured sires," commented Dr Grant Walling, JSR's director of science & technology. "Encouragingly, business was very brisk this year," added Walling.
Given the relative small size of the UK pig herd it's great to see that several overseas companies were exhibiting at Stoneleigh. The Danes are well known for their genetics, formally known as Danbred International but now called DanAvl, which is comprised of several different companies all licenced by the parent organisation. Robin Traquair runs Traquair Farms, based in Midlothian Scotland. Robin will shortly be selling LW/LR F1 females, with semen being sent directly from Denmark and Northern Ireland. Traquair was very keen to point out that all his breeding records have to be sent regularly back to HQ in Denmark – failure to do this can incur severe financial penalties for non-compliance. Porc Ex also operates under the DanAvl umbrella and has 200 Duroc boars standing at stud in N.Ireland. "We shall shortly be opening a boar stud in the UK, in the Midlands," commented Bo Varmdal, area manager for Porc Ex.
SPF Danmark – also part of DanAvl was represented at the show by area manager Peter Marager.
Equipment-wise, Skov A/S, well known for their ventilation and air cleaning equipment was at Stoneleigh. Per Nielsen of Grene Danmark A/S was keen to point out the cost savings produced using the eHeat creep lid. "This has a an integral thermostatic control system, which matches the piglets needs and saves up to 50% of energy compared to a conventional infra-red heat lamp."
New welfare regulations are impacting on the amount of slatted flooring allowed on units. Replacing floors is extremely expensive and Brian Johannsen of bjd, Skerne, has invented an ingenious plastic insert, or slat gap cover, which fits snugly between slats and converts slats to solid flooring. SGCs can also be used in high traffic areas in front of ad lib feeders and troughs to prevent expensive feed dropping down between the slats and being wasted. East Riding Farm Services are agents for SGC.
Danisco (UK) is now part of Du Pont and Dr Angela Riemensperger, who has recently been appointed as Danisco technical manager was keen to extol the benefits of their range of products including Danisco Xylanase and Phyzyme XP.
Free farrowing is a hot topic at the moment. Another Danish company, Jydden, were exhibiting their farrowing pen. Newquip represent Big Dutchman in the UK and they had their pen on display. Northern Ireland based Finrone sell the Portapig 360 degree farrower and their system has been slightly modified recently, whilst Jetwash Ltd of County Leitrim, Ireland, also had their farrowing pen on show as well.
Dutch company Nedap are well known for their ESF systems. For the current Pig Fair, Arno van Brandenburg had come over from the Netherlands to promote Nedap's PPT pig performance test unit, which tests gilts from 25-120 kg.
Nearer home, Reading based company Farmex launched their 'growth sensor', which is an in-pen voluntary access weigh scale and webcam, which plugged into Farmex's data capture network delivers real-time information on growth rates.
The UK might have a relatively small national pig herd, but big is not always beautiful and the industry is certainly not sitting still, as judged by what was on show at the UK's 2014 Pig Fair.
** The British Pig and Poultry Fair 2014 took place 13 - 14 May.