Tuesday, 18 August 2020
Ben Williams, Knowledge Transfer Senior Manager, explains what pig farmers can take away from the EU PiG Innovation Group.
To talk about cooperation across Europe right now seems both important and odd at the same time. Seventy-five years since VE and VJ Day and on the back of Brexit, you could be forgiven for wondering if there is much in Europe for UK pig farming. The EU PiG project – a consortium of 13 EU nations, including the UK – is coming to an end, much like Brexit, yet the links made on behalf of the UK pig industry will remain. A good question would be, why?
While we reside and farm on an island, our industry is global – 30% of the UK pig price is held up by exports. This means that we need to maintain the links with our European competitors to make sure:
- We gain every opportunity to stay competitive
- We make sure we are aware of what we are competing against
What is EU PiG?
The €2 million innovative programme initially began four years ago with a goal set in mind to connect pig producers with the latest science, husbandry techniques and technologies.
Funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme and led by AHDB, the network includes a range of partners, from pig producer groups to researchers and economic advisers, aim to raise the competitiveness of the European pig industry by linking producers and sharing tried-and-tested best practice and innovations.
Mainly focusing on health management, meat quality, animal welfare and precision production, all 19 global partner organisations came together to produce ways to sustain and improve productivity to make a difference.
Over the years, I’ve seen a gradual shift in focus, from small-scale ‘innovations’ made by producers to tackle very focused challenges, to much broader changes in focus, looking at how to drive marginal gains across complex processes.
There have, of course, been changes, reflective of industry pressure, increased focus on the environment and our ‘right to supply’. The one constant among all of this change, however, has been the consistent pride producers across the EU have shown in their innovations.
Innovation and best practice
There are more than 24 examples of solutions to industry problems championed and devised by pig producers. While you might not find all of them useful or appropriate to your individual farm, these ideas have one overwhelming benefit that should not be ignored: they are a ‘call to arms’ for UK pig producers, as even if they aren’t relevant to you, they suggest that you could devise similar solutions for your farm. Most importantly, there is a network across Europe that would be willing to help, teach and learn best practice from.
The pig industry, perhaps more than all others, knows that to stand still is to go backwards. A resource that describes solutions to industry issues in health, welfare, precision and meat quality has value in keeping us ahead of the curve, competitive and, more importantly, in business.
As we’ve come to end the of EU PiG project, the one thing to take away is that sometimes innovation and best practice come from the most trivial of things – it is in fact the simplest innovations that can make a huge difference to your farm. I personally want our UK producers to be proud of these small innovations and share them with the world. It is the tiny triumphs that make our production great!
Visit eupig.eu for more information and to find out about the great, yet simple, innovations that could possibly make a difference on your farm.