The survey, carried out by the Royal Agricultural Society of England ahead of the biennial British Pig & Poultry Fair, revealed that another top reason for attending is to see the latest technology and innovations. “We know from the 2014 event that 93% of visitors say the Fair is valuable to their business,” said Fair Organiser Alice Bell. “Some 62% of visitors came to see new products, while 72% planned to make changes to their business as a result.”
One of those was Dorset pig farmer Robert Lasseter, who changed the design of his new free farrowing buildings following a visit to the Fair. “It’s the first place I saw the 360° farrowing pen and we’ve now got them on the farm – it’s transformed what we’re doing here,” he said.
Of the selection of top pig producers interviewed, many cited their pregnancy scanner and performance recording software as their most valuable pieces of technology. And on the wish-lists were a CCTV system to monitor pig health and identify those in need of attention; effective robotic power washers, and fixed price contracts to guarantee a margin for the next five years.
Although most respondents said the immediate outlook for the pig industry was pretty grim, they remained optimistic of a brighter future, with two-thirds planning major investments in new units and technology. And the best piece of advice for new entrants? “Make your farm as efficient as it can be and don’t spend too much time worrying about things you can’t control,” said Devon pig farmer Andrew Freemantle. “Concentrate on those you can.”
Of the poultry producers interviewed, many were planning to invest in expansion, with others upgrading processing facilities and branching into renewable energy production. “Changing our heating system to indirect biomass heating has reduced humidity and increased the air quality,” said free-range chicken producer Les Heywood. “I’m now looking for an automated water treatment system which I’m hoping to find at the Fair.”
Disease threats, oversupply and a focus on reducing antibiotic usage were the major challenges facing the sector, but otherwise the outlook was bright. “The industry is very strong for poultry and white meat,” said turkey and chicken producer Rod Adlington. “The health drive is promoting low fat and high protein meats.”
For new entrants, good bio-security and bird health were high on the agenda. “Good vaccination and clean water are key to everything,” said chicken producer Charlie Simpson. “You need to have an excellent veterinary service and a good relationship with the people you work with.”
The wish-list for new inventions was broad and varied – and visitors to the Fair were sure to be inspired by the new Innovation Trail, said Alice Bell. “We may not be able to fulfil Stephen Tulip’s wish for something that lays a golden egg, but with 10% more stand space and more than 350 exhibitors, there will be plenty of new ideas, products and advice for producers to take home to their businesses.”
The British Pig & Poultry Fair, partnered by ABN, will be held at the National Agricultural Exhibition Centre at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire on 10-11 May 2016. “In a constantly changing global environment the whole supply chain needs to be working together to help combat the market challenges that we face,” said Kevin Sketcher, Commercial Director at ABN. “By working together we will look to help to protect and enhance farmers’ margins in the future”. To find out more and register for free entry to the Fair visit www.pigandpoultry.org.uk.