Kate Morgan  -  High welfare systems - Can they meet world food demand?

I am 29 years old and live in the small town of Driffield in East Yorkshire. I am a Director of our family pig farm which has 1700 breeding sows and takes the progeny to slaughter, selling to Sainsbury’s via Cranswick. The whole family is involved in the business, my Mother and Father and also my two older sisters.

 I studied at Newcastle University and graduated in 2003 with a 2:1 joint hons in Agri Business Management. After University I worked in marketing but this was not for me! So I decided to do a ski season and then continued to spend a year travelling round the World. I have many hobbies, ranging from Eventing my two horses to playing hockey and running.

Massive soya crop in brazil!

Posted by Kate Morgan on March 7, 2013

Appears in Business, Crops, Energy, Livestock, Pigs, Technology

It's been a while since I have written mainly due to the fact all I have been doing is working at home and trying to keep warm! The winter seems to be dragging somewhat and a few dry months would be very welcome! So as this does not seem to be the forecast I thought what a great time to do a bit more traveling for my Nuffield.

So, in my normal organised fashion I booked my flights just 2 weeks before leaving the UK. This time heading to Brazil for two weeks and then onto America. I have to say sorting my agenda out for Brazil was quite a challenge, not knowing the language or the place so when suggestions were being made I really had no idea of locations etc, even google map got confused!! Anyway like all past scholars tell you, it came together the day I was leaving, nothing like real last min, I think I work well under pressure! To add to that pressure my dad was coming to Brazil with me and so it was important I didn't just try and blag it, however I'm sure a bit of blagging my occur during the two weeks - (dad I hide it well so you won't have a clue!!!)

Dad and I flew out on different flights as I'm continuing to America it was cheaper for me to get different flights so we meet up in Rio De Janerio on the Saturday morning. I love the feeling of the heat hitting you as you leave the plane, something that never happens in England even at the height of summer! We spent Saturday and most of Sunday boondoggling (on a jolly!) looking at the Christ and also going to a football match which was good fun, the Christ is bigger than you can imagine and really very impressive. We walked along the beach a bit were the volley ball did not quite meet dads expectations, they were mostly men in their 50 - 60's and no women in g-strings! I will try and add some pictures but if I can't please follow me on twitter where I have uploaded a few @katemorgan24. So after being quite concerned that dad would tell me I had not got enough planned he very quickly suggested we stayed in Rio however since leaving we have seen and meet some great people.

So on Sunday afternoon we took a flight from Rio to Curitiba - south west of Rio here we had a few meetings set up. We arrived in Curitiba and got a taxi to our hotel and I have to say for the 1st time we did not feel quite as safe, the streets looked very rough and no people were walking round just the odd car with boy racers in! Unfortunatly the hotels bar was shut and so it was a dry night for us as the idea of walking the streets was not tempting!

Monday morning and we hired a car for one week, this little polo was going to be doing quite a few miles on some different roads!! We drove out to Witmarsum, just 1 hour form Curitiba were we met Paula Salomons, a translator and daughter to a pig and arable farmer. Paula took us to Mariame Kliever Rabbers farm, a 820 sow farm taking the progeny to 20kg all for a co-op, this system is quite common in Brazil were the Co-Op owns the pigs, provides the food, semen, vet and medicine, basically everything apart from the barns and the looking after of the animals. The farmer then receives approx £8.20 for each 20kg pig, their co-op was called Seare and was quite large within Brazil, they owned 16,000 sows. The housing was very simple and to be fair quite nice to be in, the buildings were very open, very cheap to put up and the smell was little and the pigs seemed very happy with the environment. They were certainly performing well, 28-30 pigs/sow/yearwith mortality low at around 5%. The farrowing pens looked very weak however they had obviously been used for a long time so they must do the job! They wean at about 21 days when the piglets are approx 6 - 6.5 kg and they go into pens of approx 25, this pen is fully slatted and approx 3m by 2m with just 1 nipple drinker, the pigs did look thirsty we felt but again the environment was very good and pleasant to be in. All pigs were Danbred.

The co-op that they were working with was currently looking into loose housing at a farm in central Brazil were soya and corn are cheaper. The only reason they are moving to high welfare is because of the export market even though they only export 20% of their pork they think the EU market so worth getting involved with! They predicted it would cost them 4 x the price for capital investment as they would have in import the equipment and that has 38% tax on it! They still did not know what price they would get for the pigs on this system! Staff are so cheap but also like in England cause problems! however, they don't see the need to add more technology, most farms have staff working 24/7 thus the low mortality.

Most people I have spoken with think that the country has far more important issues to deal with before they start looking at animal welfare, this does not say they don't want to do it but human welfare is still very low and the infer structure needs a lot of money spent on it, everything they produce travels by road and believe me the roads are not that great!!! I say this after being stopped for 2 hours after a wagon took a corner too fast and tipped over, to most other people in the queue it seemed normal!! Some of the cars at the side of the roads give the impression that a lot of crashes happen, and very nasty ones!

From here we headed north to Paulo's fathers farm, again involved with the same co-op doing the same thing. Performance was good with 13 born alive on a 580 sow unit. They don't scan but their conception rate was 91% and wasted days very low, around 7 days. The system was very similar to the previous farm but one thing that Hank pointed out was that they were not allowed to teeth clip and they had to grind, this seemed a strange rule as nothing else was in place such as the number of drinkers etc!

After looking round the farm they took us to see a waterfall, it was very impressive and the view was amazing, we are both shocked at how green Brazil is however Hank told us they get 1.5 meters of rainfall a year, quite evenly distributed over the year, so then we understood why it looked so well and while we were there the combine which was harvesting corn got stuck and this is quite normal!

We then went to Hanks house, the owners of the farms generally don't live at the farm, the workers do and so his house was in the town of Araopti. Here we had a few beers and some chicken pie, the hospitality was fantastic and we talked a lot about Brazil, one big thing that people in the UK may be please to hear is that most people are predicting record yields of soya this harvest, potentially 20% better than average so here's to the price coming down!!

The next day Paulo took us to Beate Von Staa's farm, we had met here the night before but she was on a course so her manager showed us round her farm, Topgen a genetics company. We could not look at the pigs however we looked at her liquid feeding system which is Big Dutchman, just like ours but she had one person soley responsible for it! We also saw her slurry system, she was extracting the gas off the manure but then just burning it off, energy is so cheap here they don't see the point in harvesting it, this up set dad quite a lot!!

We then looked round a 'small' feed mill! Producing 100 tn/month for poultry, 4-5,000tn/month for pigs and the same for cows. All the corn and soya that came in was dried by burning wood, a lot of wood, in fact acres of wood land a year which they did replant and only took 7 years to re grow! I don't think I have ever seen so much wood!! they were drying the grain down to 13% and it was coming in a about 24%! They also had the biggest grain store I have seen, one shed which could hold 120,000 tonnes of corn, the shed was massive! Plus they had a lot of large silos as well, wagons were backed up a lot, ill never complain about waiting again!

We then went to meet Beate who had finished her course and went other house for a few beers and a talk about the industry, she is a very clued up person, she said that regarding welfare the gestation stall would be the last thing they would change as there is so many other things to look at like the transport which I need to find out more about how they currently do it! She described Brazil as a big sleeping giant which needs to wake up as currently it's still sleeping! The transport in Brazil is just a nightmare and this is an area that needs to be addressed and fast! She said that if they could increase the consumption by just 1kg they could actually use all their export meat up!

I could write for ages however I feel I have gone on for some time now and so I'm going to leave for a while. We are currently driving a long trip to a place called Chapeco which is a small 8 hour drive over some amazing country however the driving is a little scary! I will write more soon, I hope I have not bored you! Hopefully we will arrive before dark!!