Communication, communication, communication – that's where the future success of the pig industry lies according to the winner of this year's David Black Award, Paul Toplis.
Paul is technical director of Primary Diets, a division of AB Agri Ltd, and has spent his working life in the feed business.
He cited three key elements as examples for a successful and sustainable pig industry, research, salmonella and antimicrobial resistance.
He believes all three should be tackled by the whole industry working better together.
Paul was presented with his award by Food and Farming Minister Jim Paice at an industry breakfast at the House of Lords this morning (Wed02).
He said: “All of these need to be tackled on an industry-wide basis. For example, with salmonella, the industry already spends considerable sums to control salmonella.
Now every part of the chain is being asked to spend more to reduce salmonella with no account of their relative effectiveness. This will increase some costs unnecessarily.
“The whole industry should get together, look at the whole chain, then target the spend where the greatest progress can be made rather than seeking expensive cuts across the board.
“The question of whether traces of antibiotics in feed contribute to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a controversial one and there probably isn’t a simple answer but we must be guided by the very best science available.
“That may well end up saying there’s no (AMR) problem with the majority of in-feed antimicrobials but we’re not so sure about these few. With co-operation across the EU, I’m sure science and sense will prevail.
“Finally, there is a huge amount of research going on but I feel it has become diluted and less effective. There could be greater co-ordination and concentration which would benefit the whole industry.”
Paul said he feels his main role is Knowledge Transfer by both getting research quickly into farm diets and through frequent farmer talks and farm visits.
He said: “I started work on experimental farms with RHM in Dorset and at that time relationships with academia were poor.
“However, I could see so much lost potential so I went banging on the door, then started building bridges. Gradually a really good relationship was built up.”
Of the award itself, Paul said he was extremely honoured: “I do feel this is much more a recognition of my role than of me as an individual because of the KT role
BPEX director Mick Sloyan who chaired the judges, said: “Paul has worked tirelessly with modesty and enthusiasm to help pig producers.
“Through working in a quiet and determined way across the whole spectrum of the industry, including farmers, feed suppliers and vets, he has made a significant contribution to the industry over many years.”