Get ready for change at the British Pig & Poultry Fair

Farmers face a lot of uncertainty in the coming years, but armed with the best advice from the industry’s top leaders they will be able to make the most of any opportunities which lie ahead
calendar icon 5 March 2018
clock icon 6 minute read

Whether it’s getting ready for changing retailer demands, investing to improve animal health and welfare, or restructuring to boost business efficiencies, there is plenty that producers can do to prepare. And they can learn all about what’s in store at the British Pig & Poultry Fair, which has brought together a top programme of speakers covering the hot topics of today.

“While nobody knows precisely what Brexit will bring, there are a number of key trends and changes which industry leaders are already using to benefit their own businesses,” explains Fair organiser Alice Bell. “By sharing those predictions, advice and ideas, our forum speakers can help visitors to the Fair to make their own adjustments and stay ahead of the game.”

Forum topics include market outlooks for eggs, poultry meat and pigs, measuring to improve performance, and how to reduce antibiotic use without compromising welfare and performance.

ABN is partnering the Fair once again, and will be running a forum on using data to boost performance. “We strongly believe that innovation and collaboration are key to the future of the British pig and poultry industry, and encourage everyone to attend,” says Danny Johnson, head of commercial at ABN.

Registration for the Fair – which is free to attend – is now open. See for more information.

Below we feature some of the key trends to be covered in the forum programme. More details about the forums and speakers can be found at

Poultry meat outlook

Demand for British chicken – particularly fresh chicken – is strong and will continue to be so, according to Patrick Hook, director at PD Hook. However, there is a big push from EU NGOs for more chickens to be slow grown, which will challenge the supply chain, he warns. “As an industry, instead of fighting these people we should have an offer for them to demonstrate responsible production.”

The Brexit backdrop provides a lot of uncertainty, he adds. “Imported US chicken is a credible threat – we need to protect our supply base and sell the benefits of eating Red Tractor chicken.”

John Kirkpatrick, agricultural manager for poultry and eggs at Tesco, reckons the coming year is likely to see continued improvements in welfare standards, with increased use of data to measure the outcome. “We want to adopt sustainable practices that are really delivering positive outcomes.”

Egg outlook

Egg sales continue to increase, reaching 197 eggs/capita last year – and that trend looks set to remain, says Mark Williams, chief executive of the British Egg Industry Council. However, prices are likely to remain under pressure, so how can producers increase production while facing lower prices?

“There is a big drive to keeping hens in lay for longer, and keeping the shell quality up in later lay,” explains Richard Pearson, head of agriculture at Chippindale Foods. “It’s about maximising every egg that comes off the farm.”

In the immediate term, producers with flat decks will have to comply with new perching regulations from this August, while in the longer-term, there is the cage-free drive to consider from 2025, says Mr Pearson. “That will mean future investment in free range egg production.”

Pig outlook

The next 12-24 months present some significant challenges and opportunities due to Brexit, changing consumer demands and general pig health, says Andrew Saunders, agricultural director at Tulip. “But I am confident the UK pig industry can adapt to meet these challenges and we may see a more collaborative relationship between producers and processors as a result.”

Ed Barker, senior policy adviser at the National Pig Association, adds: “I can’t think of any sector that will be affected more by the outcome of the Brexit negotiations than the pig sector. Future trading arrangements will be critical, while the industry also needs good outcomes on labour and regulation. We are getting a clearer picture all the time – the Fair will be an opportunity to discuss where we stand.”

Measuring to improve performance

Many people are already recording data for auditing purposes – but they can make far better use of it through benchmarking, to improve physical and financial performance, says Ian Lowery, a vet at Crowshall Veterinary Services. “There are practical ways in which data can be captured and used to improve key performance indicators.”

Technology and the Internet of Things have really developed in recent years, and there’s plenty that the poultry industry can learn from other sectors, adds John McCurdy, head of agri data services at ABN. “This is about making use of what’s already being measured in a practical way to make actionable changes on farm. If we can bring the financial aspects together with the performance data it will drive business efficiencies.”

Traceability – Unlock the power of data

For the first time, farmers can follow every step that each pig takes from birth to slaughter, with health, growth and carcase data, plus DNA details to help them make production decisions.

This cutting edge project spearheaded by AHDB is presenting unique opportunities and for the first time will allow:

  • The ability to automate detailed information capture throughout the value chain
  • Individually track animals and their weight/growth throughout their lifetime
  • Feedback on individual animal slaughter data – including individual animal health through the Pig Health Scheme and CCIR
  • An excellent platform from which the UK can create a world leading system from farm to fork traceability both through the use of UHF ear tags and DNA sampling/recording

Profit without antibiotics

The UK pig sector has made some good progress with a 34% reduction in total antibiotic use, but there is still room for improvement, says Joshua Onyango, livestock health consultant at Innovation for Agriculture. He will be profiling case studies from Sweden to help British farmers cut antibiotic use further.

Paul Thompson, a vet at Garth Pig Practice, will explore areas on which farmers should focus to target antibiotic reduction. These include the farrowing house, the post-weaning phase, and respiratory diseases in growers and finishers. “It is just about doing everything we do better.”

Ryan Johnson

Editor at The Poultry Site

Ryan worked in conservation from 2008 to 2017, during which time he operated a rainbow trout hatchery and helped to maintain public and protected green spaces in Canada for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. As editor of The Poultry Site, he now writes about challenges and opportunities in agriculture across the globe.

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