Simon Grey General Manager Europe, Genesus Inc.

We are our own worst enemies!!!

Anyone looking at the weekly global market report from another industry would ask “why would anyone be a pig farmer?” Week after week of how much money farmers are losing in this country or that country.

Complaining about legislation, red tape, government, vegans…………In Europe today mostly farmers and processors are making money, lots of the rest of the world is not. 2 years ago, in Europe we were losing fortunes…

We can’t predict the future, is a true saying for most things. In the pig industry we can. We know in Europe at some point in the next 3 years we will again be loosing money. As an industry what are we doing about this. The honest truth is absolutely nothing. The pig cycle has been going on for as long as I have been involved in the industry, and will continue to do so, unless the industry does something about it.

One of the definitions of stupidity is keep doing the same thing expecting a different result. As an industry if we don’t change what we do, how do we expect the result to change? Nothing is ever going to change and market reports will continue to report boom and bust!

Reality is the global pig industry is in crisis.

  • Poor health, ASF, PRRS, PED…..
  • High mortality…
  • Issues with lameness, prolapse, cannibalism…..
  • Falling pork consumption in developed countries (both Europe and North America predicting quite significant reduction in per capita pork consumption…..
  • More welfare legislation …….. of course, how can we justify 10% to 20% sow mortality and 20% to 30% birth to slaughter mortality…….
  • Assurance scheme’s that are not worth the paper they are written on (there is another whole possible report on this one)!!!
  • Aging farmers and work force (getting critical) ….
  • Crisis in getting people to work on pig farms….

All of this is in 2024, and with all of the new science and technology we have today. Good science and technology is supposed to make things better – not worse!! Can you imagine sports teams and athletes getting worse. The cars we buy getting less efficient and less reliable. Computers getting slower and lasting only a year. I think not!

As with all things in life, to solve a problem, first you have to admit that you have it and then really want to do something to change. Alcohol, drug and gambling addiction are all simple examples of this. The pig industry it seems has a “doom and gloom” addiction!!! 

“I am a pig farmer and I expect to lose money”!!! Just like others with other addictions we continue in the belief tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow the pig price will be higher, tomorrow the horse I bet on will win. Tomorrow I will stop drinking, I promise!!!

To solve a crisis we need a revolution!!

We have to reduce effect of disease on mortality and performance. We know that a very effective tool is to isolate populations. To use a phrase from the Covid Pandemic “lockdowns”. We know the biggest risk for introducing a disease to a pig is another pig. We know the value of good bio-security. We have known for years….

What do we do as an industry. In England we keep half our pigs in fields, where there is no biosecurity!! World-wide we continue to move replacement gilts from farm to farm. We continue to comingle groups of pigs into nursery, finisher and wean to finish farms. We continue to move pigs 100’s and even 1,000’s of miles from farm of birth to finisher farms. In Europe even from one country to another……. What do we expect to happen!!

Genetic companies have improved genetics so much that now anything under 10% sow mortality we consider good, and mortality in the teens is normal! Then we wonder why the animal rights activists get upset and we face legislation and cost to modify our farms! With 1% of lower sow mortality, we could easily stand up and defend what we do. Today we have to lock our farms for fear of someone entering with a camera! This even on farms that have accreditation by bodies like the RSPCA in the UK for having the highest standards!!

For those of you who do not know me, I watched in amazement my first sow farrow as a 12-year-old boy. I got hooked on pigs at that moment. Now at 60 and at the back end of my career and having travelled the world within the pig industry I am looking and thinking “what the hell happened” …… I know our memory starts to fail as we age, but my memory of working on sow farms as a young man is that – “sometimes (rarely) we would get a dead sow”!

Would I choose a career in pig industry today? Reading weekly market reports – absolutely not! Why would anyone!!!

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This post was written by Genesus