Canvassing the opinions of 100 pig, poultry and egg producers, it found that 83% of broiler producers had a positive outlook about the coming two years, along with 68% of pig farmers. However, the layer sector was less optimistic, with only 56% of egg farmers predicting a positive two years for their business.
Brexit played a big role in each sector’s outlook, with 83% of broiler farmers feeling it would be a positive move compared to 47% of pig producers and less than a third of egg producers.
“To date the weaker pound has benefited from the decision to leave the EU,” said one pig farmer. “In future there is a danger that Michael Gove sets higher welfare standards for the UK but financial pressure means the public choose to buy ‘standard’ pork from other countries.”
Pig farmers saw the greatest challenges as legislation, Brexit and disease – all fears that were shared by egg and broiler producers. However, in the broiler sector availability of labour was also a concern, with lower sale prices a big issue for egg producers – most of whom were free-range.
Given the drive for cage-free production from 2025, there is a risk that the whole industry will be encouraged to go free-range. But NFU Poultry Board chairman Duncan Priestner, who will be chairing the Egg Outlook forum at the Fair, reckons there is room for a barn-reared alternative. “Retailers are looking at non-Freedom Food options,” he explains. “They do need a value line; we need to offer consumers a choice.”
When it comes to opportunities, farmers in every sector agreed that the greatest benefits would come through use of technology to improve performance, automation, and higher demand at home and abroad.
“We are very efficient, with high standards of animal welfare – and we produce affordable, healthy food which is very adaptable,” says NFU poultry adviser Gary Ford, who will be chairing the Poultry Meat Outlook forum at the Fair. “For farmers, a profitable future will be a mix of tweaking what we’re doing well and making the most of bigger opportunities.”
Showcasing the professionalism of each sector, an impressive 95% of pig producers, 89% of egg producers and 83% of broiler farmers said data was important to their business. “There are practical ways in which data can be captured and used to improve key performance indicators,” explains Crowshall vet Ian Lowery, who will be speaking in the ABN forum. “It’s about using something you’re collecting every single day to intuitively improve performance.”
Alice Bell, organiser of the British Pig & Poultry Fair, says it is encouraging to see farmers embracing new technology. “It’s clear from this survey that pig, poultry and egg producers have a lucid picture of the challenges and opportunities ahead. And it’s important that they act now to prepare their businesses for change. Spending a day at the Fair will offer them all the expert advice and new technology they need to get ahead of the game.”
- The British Pig & Poultry Fair is the leading event for the UK pig, poultry and egg sectors, and will be held on 15-16 May 2018 at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire. Partnered by ABN the Fair is free to attend, to register and plan your visit go to pigandpoultry.org.uk.