General Manager Russia, CIS and Europe, Genesus Inc.
Current pig price in Russia remains good at 133.2 Roubles per live kg (US$1.91). There continue to be outbreaks of ASF in commercial farms that take some pigs off the market and large integrators going to the market to fill the spaces in their plants.
Despite Russia being self-sufficient in Pork, there is news of continual expansion. I have been told of two new projects of 30,000 and 60,000 sows. Russia has a lot of land to grow crops to feed more pigs and for slurry disposal. It is an area of the world perfect for producing the animal protein our growing human population will demand.
After 19 months away from Russia, it’s good to be back meeting clients face to face. One surprise is that everywhere people are talking about the lack of people to work in pig farms. This has never been an issue in Russia before. However, like everywhere else in the world, as the economy develops, there are more jobs in towns and cities and a continual movement of people from the villages to these towns. Don’t get me wrong, relative to North America there are still a lot of people on Russia farms and also remarkably on many farms nearly 40% of “paid staff” are not working directly in production. These are however the first signs of things to come.
One big issue in Russia is mind-boggling levels of administration and rules which mean a lot of people on farms with nothing productive to do. For Russian pig business to be able to become labour efficient help is required from the government massively simplifying the administrative process. This is an area in which pig associations can really help the pig industry.
Another key element of running farms with less staff is having a pig that is robust and easy to look after. This is an area Genesus has focused on. Jobs like fostering, dealing with cannibalism, treating, moving dead and sick pigs are all time-consuming jobs. Importantly also, some are also rather demoralising for staff. In general pig workers care about what they do, they like to do a good job. Dead pigs, pigs with no tails or ears are all distressing. There is no job satisfaction dealing with these.
The old saying “pigs are easy, the problems are the staff” is today no longer true. Some genetic programs have focused only on born alive, FCR, ultra-lean, killing out % and have created pigs that are extremely difficult to manage (and tasteless pork). A better saying for this type of pigs would be “these pigs are really difficult to manage and we can’t find the people capable of managing them”.
The reality of the world is a growing population with an increasing demand for high-quality and tasty animal protein. Add to this the problems of places to build farms and a reducing number of people wanting to work on these farms we need pigs that maximise production. This means pigs weaned per farrowing crate per year and kg produced per m2 of nursery and finisher space per year. Old-style “piglets weaned per sow per year” and “tonnes of meat per sow” mean absolutely nothing as they have no association with the limiting factors…the farms!!!
Productive sows that can wean strong healthy piglets at 21 days, that grow fast, that don’t eat each other, that don’t die, and that produce tasty pork that people want to eat, seems to me to be rather important.