Like the rest of the farming industry, the poor spring, increasing environmental pressures, energy and feed costs, labour, succession and ever-tightening regulations are issues of concern for pig farmers.

On the back of a few tough years which resulted in the average pig farm accruing a debt of €400,000, Roy Gallie, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) pig chair said that “at the moment, pigs are profitable”.

He explained that there has been a decrease in pig farming across Europe, of “maybe 10% or more”, creating competition.

“The UK market is good, but there are access problems,” he said.

While pig production is falling in Europe, pig numbers are “ramping up across the world and they may be doing so without the environmental restrictions we have here,” he added.


He said that there is a lot of uncertainty around feed prices, and they are trending to move upwards, mainly on the back of speculation that Ukraine and Russian harvests aren’t what they were thought to be.

“There is also speculation that soya bean was coming from deforestation areas. This raises its own issues, because after 30 December of this year, the ban on imported soya beans from land deforested since 31 December 2020 will be in place, leaving a lot of decisions with regards to sourcing to be made at European level, and a lot of unknowns for farmers,” he said.

Roy Gallie, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) pig chair.

Gallie said that another issue on the ground is getting and retaining staff.

“Staffing levels across all areas of agriculture, but particularly on pig farms is an issue. “It is difficult to get competent staff who will stay.”

However, he acknowledged that help from the government to get staff from non-EU countries was very successful, but that it is expensive, and that “you need a profitable business to pay them”.

Loose farrowing

“The tails issue has been shelved at EU level for the moment, while loose farrowing is currently centre stage to animal welfare. We are doing a lot of work on ending sow confinement, there are experiments ongoing.”

With regards to in-feed antibiotics, Gallie said that it is “negligible” at this stage, and said that there have been no carcasses in several years that have shown up with antibiotics.

The ban of zinc oxide in feed formulation for piglets has presented a challenge for weaning. Most farmers have overcome this by weaning stronger pigs, he said.

“As pig farmers, we are net exporters of plant nutrients (slurry). We have been calling on the government to increase storage and grant availability to farmers with plants and crops.[Slurry] stores need to be more available around the country. We are engaged in the biomethane talks and are in encouraging of it.”

Gallie also mentioned planning issues when it comes to slurry storage and the concept of “calendar farming”. He said that the wet spring was also a nightmare for pig farmers with regards to slurry. He believes that the retention of the derogation is crucial for agriculture.