A combination of falling market returns and soaring pig prices will deliver demanding conditions for farmers on Irish pig farms during the months ahead.

Production costs per finished pig are in the region of €1.70/kg, while the market is only offering in the region of €1.50-1.55 at the present time.

These were the views expressed by Makeway Ltd. nutritionist Martin Sweeney, who spoke at a series of Glenmarshal Sires-hosted farmer meetings, held this week.    

Sweeney said: “The next six months will be very challenging for farmers. But it’s not all bad news.

“A high proportion of the wheat and barley grown in Ireland is used on pig farms. And the quality of the grain produced this year has been excellent. Cereal yields have also been more than acceptable.”

Protein on Irish pig farms

Protein, mostly in the form of soya, is the big ticket item that pig farmers continue to import into Ireland.

But according to Sweeney, the potential for Irish tillage farmers to reduce this deficit is significant.

He said: “Irish-grown peas and beans can be very effectively included in the specification of most pig rations.

“I worked for a number of years in Canada, where peas and beans are regularly included in pig diets.”

Sweeney is aware of some tillage farmers already growing peas and beans as part of a cereal rotation.

“They are subsequently incorporating these proteins into home-mixed pig diets. Farm to farm sales are the obvious way forward, where Irish-grown peas and beans are concerned,” he continued.

“But, obviously, the price has to be right as well.”

Younger pigs

According to Sweeney peas and beans should be kept away from younger pigs.

“But they can be fed very effectively to dry sows, and growing pigs. The one caveat is that the beans must be zero-tannin varieties.”

Another potential source of home-grown protein for Irish pig farmers is rapeseed.

“The problem with this is that the rape grown here contains amounts of tannin,” Sweeney confirmed.

“However, in Canada they grow canola, which is a genetically modified form of rape.

“This meal does not contain tannins and so can be fed safely to pigs. However, EU regulations prevent its inclusion in Irish pig diets,” he concluded.