We can’t turn the clock back, but we can learn from history and how a country’s swine industry has evolved — or devolved — and learn by others’ mistakes. The
Following World War II, and the fact that the
Fifty years ago there were many U.K.-run Extension station farms and a country-wide Extension service. This helped pig farmers stay up-to-date and run efficient businesses. However, the Thatcher government ended those efforts, and money was funneled from applied research. That was to the
It’s no surprise that people in the
Welfare groups highlighted gestation tether and stall systems as being cruel and got government legislation passed banning those systems by Jan.1, 1999. That put
So, in the late 1990s,
Disease issues also have been a challenge in recent years. Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and porcine multi-systemic wasting syndrome (or porcine circovirus associated disease) were rampant in
No sooner had that outbreak ended, when foot-and-mouth disease broke in
PCVAD has been a major problem in the
Environmental pollution cases, which usually involve leaking slurry stores or excessive slurry applications, do periodically occur but pig farmers generally act responsibly. In 2007, the EU did introduce the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control regulations to address manure pollution, storage and application. For example, slurry must be plowed into stubble within 24 hours of spreading. Tremendous paperwork is required for the farm to get an operating permit. It costs an initial fee of $6,500 plus an annual fee of $5,400. The regulations apply to hog operations with more than 750 sow places and more than 2,000 finisher places (pigs over 66 pounds.) About 30 percent of
As for overall production, sow numbers have declined, from 772,000 sows in 1998 to an estimated 400,000 today. Like everywhere,
On the disease front, circovirus vaccines are now available, and the British Pig Executive is allocating $3 million to a PCV-2 research project. By late 2008, 5 million pigs will be vaccinated. Producers report pigs are reaching slaughter weight two weeks faster, and they are selling one extra pig per litter.
Fortunately the industry does have proactive representation in the National Pig Association, with good links to government and supermarkets. Last autumn, NPA launched a massive campaign to inform the public about how much money the industry was bleeding. It was able to get pork retail prices increased, although it has been slow to reach the farmer. NPA estimates producers’ breakeven at $1.34 per pound carcass weight, but pig prices have only reached $1.20 per pound.