Whether it’s antibiotic-resistant MRSA and ESBL bacteria, the spread of African swine fever (ASF) or the PED virus, the Russian import ban on European pork or rising production costs and competitive disadvantages arising from our more rigorous animal welfare and environmental regulations – European pig producers have reason enough to complain. And yet at the EPP’s annual conference in Belgium it was rare to hear farmers lamenting their woes. This event was far more about finding solutions or at least attempts at solutions to all the problems and discussing ways to overcome the challenges. “To Learn from each other”, the club's guiding principle, was certainly very much in evidence. But when it comes to problem solving, there's no magic formula which can be implemented across the board on every farm and in every country. Take boar inoculation, for example; individual countries take completely different approaches to this issue.
Founded in 1990 under the auspices of DLG, the EPP promotes the networking and sharing of information among pig producers throughout Europe in order to offer support as they prepare to play an active role and compete in global markets.
One thing that all countries have in common is the fact that feed costs are regarded as the main long-term cost driver. Now though, not only are feed companies offering alternatives, but breeders are increasingly focusing their breeding programs on longevity and efficiency. The same is true of animal health and welfare. Thanks to the industry's innovative spirit (breeding, feeding, husbandry, air conditioning technology and veterinary science), good advice and willingness to embrace new products and technologies, alternative approaches will continue to be available in the future as well. In this context it is important that policymakers create a suitable framework that enables pig producers to survive in the global marketplace.
Every pig farmer will have found something to inspire them at the EPP conference; whether it was the short specialist talks, the ‘Portrait of a farm’ video followed by panel discussions on various issues raised in the film or the choice of ten excursions. These gave participants new insights into a number of topics including innovative feed concepts, slurry handling and slurry separation. Examples of practical public relations activities and the demonstration of new ideas for direct marketing to specialist restaurants gave the attendees insights into how Belgian pig farmers are rising to the challenge.
After three informative and varied days in Belgium, one thing was clear: We’re all in the same boat! And the best way to meet the waves is to all row in the same rhythm and in the same direction.