Irish pig kill-out percentage ‘has not been changed in 30 years’

In Ireland, pig farmers are paid on a 76% kill-out basis and this figure has not changed over the last 30 years, according to a Mitchellstown pig farmer.

Co. Cork pig farmer and Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Pigs Committee member Philip O’Brien has explained that this is unfair and that the kill-out percentage should be much higher.

He outlined: “In Germany, the kill-out percentage is 80%, yet the Germans process their pigs in the same manner as in Ireland and they pay their farmers 4% more.

This is not a level playing field. This kill-out percentage needs to be adjusted to 2019 markets rather than the 1980s market.

“Today, Friday, April 5, Irish pig price is €1.50/kg while the price in Germany for next week sits at approximately 33c/kg ahead of ours.

“We have been pushed in all aspects of production and efficiencies, yet we do not get treated fairly,” he argued.

He added that the value of the offal has “increased hugely”, due mainly to the demand from China.

We have been selling pigs for over 30 years and after converting from the old punt, we have old dockets showing that in the late 1980s, we were paid the equivalent of €1.90/kg for pigs.

“I’m sure everyone would agree costs have increased significantly from the late 1980s, yet prices seem to be much lower. I don’t think we have seen a price of €1.90/kg since the 1980s.”

Good years and bad years

O’Brien acknowledged that in the last 30 years, Irish pig farmers have seen “some good years followed by many bad”.

He drew attention to how the amount of pig farmers in Ireland has dwindled from over 5,000 to now under 300.

“This is a stark reflection on the industry and how it has been operating,” he warned.

He added that “huge investment is required” on the remaining pig farms, as many are still farming in buildings that were built in the late 1970s, and that this cannot be rectified with “one good year every now and then”.

“The current cycle tends to be one good year, where one clears some debt and gets some badly needed maintenance done, followed by a number of bad years where once again credit terms get pushed to the limit. This is when some farmers reach the point of breaking.

“This cycle proves to be exhausting and it is very difficult to see if we will be here in the long term.

“Unfortunately, we are price takers, but if the processors do not support us and allow farmers to do more than just stay afloat, there may not be family pig farming in the future.”

Concluding, the IFA Pigs Committee member expressed his optimism for the year ahead, saying: “The future is bright for this year and farmers certainly need to make hay while the sun shines, but Irish pig processors need to allow this to happen promptly.”