A lesson from the pig industry

With summer eventually arriving and harvest in full swing, farm visits have been few and far between over the last few weeks. Farming has come to me  –  with a lack of concentration or a GPS malfunction, the back garden could easily have been harvested too. This was the view from my home working office window a few days ago.

Philip's office window at harvest time

As well as using the office time for planning this coming autumn and winter meetings, I have been taking the opportunity to catch up with colleagues from other sectors. I was keen to catch up with Ben Golledge, my counterpart in AHDB Pork. Now there’s an industry used to volatility! They have recently run a series of meeting entitled Getting through tough times.  What could I learn?

pig drinking

Refreshingly there were no silver bullets. No surprise considering the contraction we have seen in that industry over the last few decades. However, for the ones still going and going profitably, there were some common characteristics. How do we compare in the cereal industry?

  • Specialised management. Attention to management. No ‘busy fools’
  • Detailed recording AND analysis. Measure to manage
  • Begin with the end in mind. What are the objectives? What is the start point?
  • “ You can’t influence the world but you can affect what happens behind the farm gate. Make changes”
  • “What are the best changes I can make to my business – today and long term?
  • Benchmark to highlight problems and quantify production costs. Know true costs of production.
  • Team work. Involve and engage everyone in the business. Regular meetings. Farm diaries.

I am going to go to one of their benchmarking meetings in the autumn to see what more I can learn. While corn and pork are different commodities perhaps we should consider a joint meeting to share volatility management strategies? Any thoughts?



Taunton-based Philip joined AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds from HSBC Agriculture, where he was Senior Agriculture Manager in the South West region. Having studied agriculture at university, Philip spent seven years as a Senior Business Management Consultant with ADAS before developing his career with HSBC. He brings substantial business management experience to the Regional Team, and a detailed understanding of the complexities of the industry in the region.

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