Pig farmers have had a challenging year, with well-documented drops in pig prices, rising feed prices and pressure on the processing sector due to COVID-19.

Many pig farmers are reporting a huge loss to their income due to increased input costs and the drop in prices that they are receiving for their pigs, while others have found it hard to get their pigs slaughtered in factories over the last few months.

The Irish Farmers Journal spoke to farmers this week about their own farms and how the pressures are affecting them.

Hannah and Jill Ryan, Doon Farm Enterprises, Tipperary

“We have 1,000 sows and we farm in conjunction with our father Charlie. We found it hard for a while to get our pigs out and to get them to factories. We had been going to Cookstown in the North with our pigs and Rosderra.

“The problem has resolved a bit, thankfully, but it’s not fully back to what we had been slaughtering. Slaughtering for the Christmas is still touch and go.”

Paul Tully, Abbeyleix, Laois

“The price of feed has gone crazy. I’m paying €70/t more this year than last year. I’m using about a tonne an hour or averaging 25t to 26t a day.

“I can’t pass those increased costs on. My pig price has gone down 24c and my feed has gone up 25c. So I’m operating a net negative of 49c.”

Maurice O’Brien, Mitchellstown, Co Cork

“There is a pig crisis at the moment. The price of pigs has fallen and the price of feed is rocketing - it has gone up 30% on the tonne. Realistically, there is nothing wrong with the price of feed, only that the price of pigs needs to go up.

“There was suggestions before on grants for slurry storage, which would be good for the pig and tillage farmer. It needs to be a high percentage grant, about 80%, because the cost of materials is up too. This type of grant would displace carbon-intensive fertilisers."

Michael O’Shea, Roscrea, Tipperary

“I’m buying feed from a mill. It has gone up €70/t since this time last year.

"The prices I’m getting for my pigs is way down on what it was a few years ago, around €1.40/kg, which is probably 25c off the cost of production today. I’m definitely operating in the red.”

Matty Moore, Croghan, Co Offaly

“I’m paying €75/t to €80/t for feed. The problem with the price of feed is we can’t pass it on to anybody, we have to absorb that.

"Most businesses that sell products just higher the price of their product, but, unfortunately, our pig prices haven’t risen with the price of feed, actually it has dropped with the price of feed.”

Tom Horgan, Limerick, former IFA pig committee chair

"We're losing our shirt at the moment with the price of pigs, getting around €1.48 and we have production costs in excess of €1.65/kg.

"We had to go away this morning and borrow money from the bank just to tide us over for the next few months, and that's the situation with all the pig farmers."

Ger Power, Co Kilkenny

“There is no end to the price of feed and it seems to only be going one way and that’s up. It’s putting massive pressure on the sector.

"I’m really in the red now. After coming from a really healthy position, COVID-19 really came at the wrong time. It’s just a double whammy.”