Stoneleigh, Coventry is the venue for the biennial UK Pig and Poultry fair. The site in the past used to host England’s Royal Show and it’s very sad that England does not have a premier farming event, unlike Wales or Scotland. We do have the very successful and popular three day Great Yorkshire Show though!
A special feature of the UK pig fair is the amount of show space devoted to companies making equipment for outdoor pigs, as over 40 per cent of UK production is outdoors, or as the French call it , “camping pigs.”
The UK industry now has several very big players and the Easey family has about 25,000 sows, mainly farrowing outdoors, with the pigs being finished indoors. Ian Thompson supervises many of the finisher units and he is looking to use slatted cattle sheds for finisher pigs. “Beef production is not so profitable right now and so sheds are available although the slat gaps need filling in – a new product from Denmark, launched at the show might just do that job,” commented Thompson.
Over the years much of the UK production has moved from one site farrow to finish to split site production, with breeding units simply producing five kg weaners which are then moved often considerable distances, by UK standards, to other farms which purely finish these pigs, known in the trade as “bed and breakfast” pig keeping. Robin Meadley used to have a 200 sow farrow-to-finish unit in Holderness, East Yorkshire. Some years ago he stopped breeding and opted for a “B&B” operation, with the pigs being transported from N. Lincolnshire, around 60km away. Robin also is in charge of three other nearby finishing units, with the pigs being bedded on rape straw. Grants are currently available to encourage on- farm anaerobic digestion plants and Robin is in the process of installing an AD plant to generate electricity, most of which will be sold to a power company and which will aid farm income.
The atmosphere at this year’s show was pretty bullish, with more smiles than frowns, as producers have been in profit for most of 2013.
Building companies at the show were busy, with farmers looking to revamp facilities rather than build new sow capacity, with the UK sow herd remaining around the 400,000 sow mark — it was double that 10 years ago. Higher pig prices, of course, also give some producers the chance to sell up.
The British Pig Executive (BPEX) has been pushing the two tons of pigmeat /sow concept for some time, to get output in line with the continent, but it still remains at around 1.9 tons/sow. Numbers born alive/litter are still below the EU average. Part of this can be contributed to the UK’s large outdoor sow population; nevertheless, most figures for GB indoor breeding herds are still below the EU average. In all UK breeding herds in 2009, the number of pigs born alive stood at 11.22. In 2013 it had risen to just 11.87, an increase of just 0.65 in four years. BPEX has an excellent technical website plus a national team of pig advisers. In addition, top quality technical workshops are put on all over the country on a regular basis, but it would just seem that the information related to boosting herd productivity is not getting through to the average UK pig producer. Undoubtedly he or she is the producer that would claim that he or she is far too busy running the pig unit to spend an afternoon at a conference. A classic case of “not being able to see the wood for the trees.”
Mick Sloyan is the Director of BPEX. In his 2014 Pig fair speech he highlighted several encouraging aspects of the UK industry.
*UK production is likely to reach 850,000 tonnes (carcase weight) this year, which will be the 6th consecutive year of modest growth in UK output.
*UK supermarkets have shown strong support for British pigmeat, not just “top end” ones such as Marks & Spencer and Waitrose but also the cost conscious retailers such as Aldi and Lidl
*The Red Tractor scheme is well known now to consumers and trusted.
*Exports, in particular to China of pork and pork products (5th quarter) were worth in excess of £335 million in 2013.
*British pigs are in demand and this has been reflected in the price differential between UK and EU prices. In the last 12 months this has been about 18/kg, worth over £14 per pig to British producers.
*Future: The outlook is positive — with feed costs looking to ease, margins should remain positive as long as the demand for British pork and pork products can be maintained at home and abroad.
*Challenges: PEDv: This has had a devastating effect in the USA and Canada and extreme vigilance is needed in managing the threat of PEDv re the UK industry in terms of improving bio-security and other measures.
BPEX – Going For Growth strategy – the Five Year Plan
a. Close the Gap – help industry improve its technical performance against our competitors
b. Protect the Environment – UK has already improved its carbon footprint by 24 per cent over the last four years.
c. Enhance Pig Welfare – UK has a deserved reputation that must be protected.
d. Encourage Safe and Traceable Pork — this is basic to maintaining consumer confidence
e. Help Sell More Pork – we want to rejuvenate the image of pork amongst consumers as well as encouraging them to look for the Red Tractor

Getting the amino acid balance correct in diets, especially those feed-to-finishers is vital and using natural ingredients my result in a surplus of some amino acids which end up being delaminated, which is very wasteful. In view of this, Northern Ireland based Devenish Nutrition have created an unique concentrated protein, DeviGainPG which supplies amino acids in a targeted form which the pig can utilise more effectively. It improves DLWG & FCR also reduces N excretion by 25 per cent and under UK conditions gave a net margin increase of £4 per pig.

Given the relative small size of the UK pig herd it’s great to see that several overseas companies were exhibiting at Stoneleigh. The Danes are well known for their genetics, formally known as Danbred International but now called DanAvl, which is comprised of several different companies all licenced by the parent organization. Robin Traquair runs Traquair Farms Ltd, based in Midlothian, Scotland. Robin will shortly be selling LW/LR F1 females, with semen being sent directly from Denmark and Ireland. Robin was very keen to point out that all his breeding records have to be sent regularly back to HQ in Denmark – failure to do this can incur severe financial penalties for non-compliance. Porc Ex also operates under the DanAvl umbrella and has 200 Duroc boars standing at stud in N. Ireland. “We shall shortly be opening a boar stud in the UK, in the Midlands” commented Bo Varmdal, area manager for Porc Ex.
SPF Danmark – also part of DanAvl was represented at the show by area manager Peter Marager.
Equipment-wise, Skov A/S, well known for their ventilation and air cleaning equipment was at Stoneleigh. Per Nielsen of Grene Danmark A/S was keen to point out the cost savings produced using the eHeat creep lid. “This has a an integral thermostatic control system, which matches the piglets needs and saves up to 50 per cent of energy compared to a conventional infra-red heat lamp.”
New welfare regulations are impacting on the amount of slatted flooring allowed on units. Replacing floors is extremely expensive and Brian Johannsen of BJD, Skerne, Denmark, has invented an ingenious plastic insert, or slat gap cover, which fits snugly between slats and converts slats to solid flooring. SGCs can also be used in high traffic areas in front of ad lib feeders and troughs to prevent expensive feed dropping down between the slats and being wasted. East Riding Farm Services are agents for SGC.
Danisco (UK) is now part of Du Pont and Dr Angela Riemensperger, who has recently been appointed as Danisco Technical Manager was keen to extol the benefits of their range of products including Danisco Xylanase and Phyzyme XP.

JSR Genetics always are present at the show and this year JSR was promoting their Geneconverter 900 sire line, which is producing excellent fast growing progeny. Linda Gibbs, CEO of Waldo Genetics and daughter of the owner and founder, Max Waldo had flown over from Nebraska to attend the show. “The Waldo White Duroc is used with the Landrace to produce the JSR outdoor Genepacker 150 gilt, which doesn’t give colour with coloured sires,” commented Dr. Grant Walling, JSR’s director of science & technology. “Encouragingly, business was very brisk this year,” added Walling.

Free farrowing is a hot topic at the moment. Another Danish company, Jydden, was exhibiting their farrowing pen. Newquip represents Big Dutchman in the UK and they had their farrowing pen on display. Northern Ireland based Finrone sells the Portapig 360 degree farrower and their ingenious system has been slightly modified recently, whilst Jetwash Ltd. of County Leitrim, Ireland, also had their farrowing pen on show as well.

Dutch company Nedap are well known for their ESF systems. For the current Pig Fair, Arno van Brandenburg had come over from the Netherlands to promote Nedap’s PPT pig performance test unit, which tests gilts from 25-120kg.
Nearer home, Reading based company Farmex launched their “growth sensor” which is an in-pen voluntary access weigh scale and webcam, which plugs into Farmex’s data capture network and delivers real-time information on growth rates.

The UK might have a relatively small national pig herd, but big is not always beautiful and the industry is certainly not sitting still, as judged by what was on show at the UK’s 2014 Pig Fair. •
— Norman Crabtree