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.

PIC and the largest privately owned pig company

Posted by Kate Morgan on March 18, 2013

Appears in Business, Energy, Livestock, Pigs, Technology

So, after a much needed sleep we gladly gave the car back and to our surprise they didn't manage to find anything wrong with it, I'm just waiting for the 100's of speeding fines dads managed to get!! Watch this space! Anyway back to work! We had 3 days of meetings planned by PIC, Neimar picked us up from the hotel and we traveled to a town called Papanduva, home of a company called Master, This is the largest privately owned pig business in Brazil, with 35,000 sows, 8 feed mills and a slaughter house, quite an operation! They produce 500 tonnes of feed a day, slaughter 500 pigs a day and sell it though their own brand however, they have to sell1000 pigs to another company each week as they can cope with the amount they are producing!

We arrived at lunch time and so they took us straight out for food, and a lot of it at that! Neimar could talk quite good English, well a lot better than we could speak Portuguese but his wife could speak more, her mane was Monica and she is one of the 10 vets which work at Master, I ha e to say farms in Brazil have a high level of vets on farm, this has to be a strong point to their welfare, i think I'm beginning to think welfare is so different everywhere I go and depends so much on human welfare, I'm getting further and further away from being able to state a board meaning of animal welfare! Not a great thing when that's most of my study, is this meant to happen?!

What I grasp very early from Master is that they have good performance but the marketing and the infrastructure fails them massively. every pig is sold for the same Price, it does. To matter how it is reared and the meat that is sold is mostly frozen, they have yet to expand the ham and fresh market!

We are taken to 'farm 7' where we meet Rafael who is the manager who oversees all the farms, he is also a vet and can speak fantastic English. So, farm 7 has approx 6000 sows, they have 26 staff and operate a 24/7 staffing policy. The minimum they pay is 300US $ a month but include food, bus, gym etc. They also pay twice in December which is the norm in Brazil.

They are very passionate about vets being present on farm and each farm will be visited buy one at least once a month and because they are also a multiplication unit for PIC every 3 months they have to give a written report to the government and they also bleed 60 sows every 3 months to test for most things but particularly foot and mouth, this region is F&M free with out vaccine but is the only one in Brazil, but If to think they boarder 11 countries its very hard for them to keep it out, in order to do this they actually vaccinate other countries animals around the boarder.

Like all pig farmers they have struggled over the last few years. Loosing money however the company still continues to grow, it's not like England where you have to buy the land, the government give it to you here and then you build on it! A few figures, they wean at 22 days, average 6.3 kg, farrowing rate of 87.4%, replacement of 45-50% and average parity of 3!!!

On a welfare or what they think is welfare, I'm totally unsure now! They believe the pigs are not pets and if they are productive and making money they are happy! They do respect the pig and are always trying to improve the environment, I saw an air blowing system in the farrowing house which was clear the sows loved! They also had a 10000 sow unit where after 60 days of gestation they were moved in loose housing and the production figures were the same, and so they were thinking this was a better system! The are also very aware of the use of antibiotics and trying to keep this to a min.

They also have a big emphasis on people welfare and before I have chance to say it Rafael has said that the management make the welfare, and they look after them well, with lots of different programmes to help up their wages as keeping things tidy, accident free etc.

The cost of production was put at 26 US $ per weaned pig, 55% of that is feed, 6% labour, 6% health and 6% depreciation, the rest energy. They then have bed and breakfast type operation which they pay 2.2 US $ for a 6kg pig to 22kg and 8US $ up to finish which is 122 live weight, aprrox £7 a pig, wish it was as cheap for us!

The next day we were taken to the nursery and finisher unit, the nursery unit housed 2600 pigs and it took 45 days to get to 22kg, the pens were very simple slats and open sides, very fresh with 90 pigs per pen with just 4 nipple drinkers and one round feeder which did offer water as well but I felt more water points were required! Mortality was 1.7% in this shed.

In the fattening shed I have to say they were mucky, they were in solid flour pens which were cleaned by hand once a day, I really don't know how they get someone to do this, they had 0.9meter square and 50 pigs per pen with just 2 nipple drinkers and one round feeder, again they looked thirsty but again morality was low ish at 2.2%.

Master is no doubt a very successful business which has grown rapidly over 20 years, a family business! They really looked after us well and showed us a very good breeding unit, dad was jealous but that building would to work in England and I have keep telling him that he should be proud of what we do there is no way you can compare our systems, dad sees the COP and does not understand how we can compete but the consumer is so different in Brazil and they are aware if they want to export to the UK things would have to change and that would come at an increased cost. I personally like both systems they both work well in there environment.

Dad and I then got a flight to Campinas to go to PIC head office. We stayed at a lovely hotel in Piracicaba where we meet some lovely people and felt the pain the next morning! Luckily Marcelo picked us up in the morning and took us to the office in Rio Claro. Marcelo have us a fantastic presentation about PIC and the Brazilian market as a whole, it really had some great information, the Brazilian pig industry has 2.4 million pigs of which 0.8 million are non technical (producing less than 20/pigs/sow/year). As like everywhere the big farms are getting bigger and the small going out but the big companies ate moving north to where the corn and soya is cheaper. I got so much information but its on a presentation and so I will share it with you once I return home and can load it onto the computer, just the main facts, for the juicy stuff you will have to read my report!! I must also thank Marcio for sorting all the meeting out for Master and PIC and of course Fiona in England PIC.

So our meeting had come to an end in Brazil and it was a flight back to Rio for Dad and I, what a fantastic 2 weeks and what a great country, everyone has been so open and helpful and I hope I will see them again soon in the UK.

I have really started to think about my report and the thought of writing it does not seem quite as scary, I have learnt so much I just don't think I'll be able to stop and still I have America to visit! What an opportunity Nuffield is! I just love it!

Back in rio and Dad and I chill out a little, the sun is shining, we get red! But it's safe to say we are browner than when we left! We also visited a favela, 8000 people living in different conditions but funded by the government, I can see why everyone has said that there are far more important things to be sorted before they look hard into welfare, if you are a farmer I think it's fair to say 99% of the time you do it because you love animals and 99% of the time the welfare will be high regardless of the systems.

sorry for the long long blog but ill go now, next time I write ill be in America, the last leg of my journey, I can't wait! Cheers