The Yorkshire farmer who is losing £1,000 a month due to pig price crisis

The current pressure on pig producers is affecting the whole sector, including a North Yorkshire man who has kept his own pigs for 34 years.

Jim Farrington of Beechwood Farm, Shipton by Beningbrough, is known for his love of pigs and keeps his traditional small herd of 25 native rare breed Tamworths and Welsh pigs in one of the most welfare friendly environments.

Jim supplies a niche market, he’s a successful showman and Tamworth judge. He’s won at the Great Yorkshire Show and he vows that he will still keep pigs even through the toughest times, as he did in the late 90s, but he’s also a realist. Jim said that his enterprise, albeit smaller than most, has to pay its way.

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“It’s nipping a bit right now. I have one of the smallest commercial sow herds in the country and I’m sure to some larger producers I might look as though this is a hobby, but it isn’t in my market.

Jim Farrington, Beechwood Farm, Easingwold, a pig breeder of rare pig breeds - Tamworth & Welsh sows

“I keep very traditional breeds in very traditional ways with lots of straw yards, pig arcs and plenty of space for each litter. My sows have only two litters a year. Bigger commercial operations will run at around 2.4 to 2.5 litters per sow per year, but mine still have to be viable.”

Jim said his pig price has been affected just as everyone else has been in the sector.

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“The price for my pigs is £16 per pig down from where I would want to be because although I am a supplier of rare breed and welfare friendly meat to a specialist retailer in a niche market, I’ve lost my price as it is based on an average market price.

Jim Farrington, Beechwood Farm, Easingwold, a pig breeder of rare pig breeds - Tamworth & Welsh sows

“Feed prices going up also has meant the overall impact on my business is that I’m around £30 per pig down, which means I’m about £1,000 per month down in terms of reduced turnover and added costs.

“If you multiplied my business to the size of a commercial producer with 500 sows this would mean they would be £20,000 per month down.

“I am surviving, but the business still needs to hold its own and there is little opportunity for any repairs or refurbishment or looking forward while the price remains low and costs remain high.”

Jim said he shifted from his sow herd of 70 Large White Landrace crosses to rare breeds when the pig industry collapsed in 1998.

“I got through it then because I took part-time work elsewhere. I retrained. That’s when I came out of keeping commercial hybrid pigs and began concentrating wholly on pedigree native rare breeds.

“My dad had retired in 1991 after a career in the Navy and then the post office and had had Tamworths when he’d been younger. He wanted them to show at the Great Yorkshire Show in his retirement.

“We had a couple at first and then it grew from there. Now I wouldn’t be without them or the Welsh. We keep three Tamworth female bloodlines: Lucky Lass, the original bloodline we started with; Princess and Maple. I always try to make sure we have at least three of each of them. We have one permanent boar line, the Yorkshireman.

“I also have three Welsh female bloodlines: Jean, Elenora and Aconite, which is quite rare even for a rare breed. My two resident boar lines are Victor and Arthur. Our Tamworth females date right back to our first in 1991 and our Welsh back to when we started with them in 2004.

Jim said he keeps each litter separately and the litter stays together right the way through the system he operates at Beechwood.

“We farrow the sows down in loose pens or in arcs outside and wean the piglets late at around 7-8 weeks. It makes for a much more stress-free weaning for the sow and her litter.

“There’s the usual initial pecking order in a litter to get over but after that it is all about smell and recognition of each pig’s place in the litter.”

Jim said his favourite moment in the show ring was winning the Tamworth breed championship at the Great Yorkshire Show in 2010.

“We had won it before and have won it since but it was special as it was the last year my dad was with us.

“We’ve had some great times since, including champion of champions at Harrogate with a Welsh pig that our eldest daughter Bryony was showing and this year we had the young pig interbreed champion and had reserve breed champion with a Tamworth.

“Our daughters Bryony, Megan and Iris have all grown up showing and my wife Ursula looks after us all.”

Jim said he enjoys his Tamworth judging which he has done at Ryedale and the Royal Bath & West.

“I look for a good flat back, flat underline. I’m looking for symmetry. I also want to see 14 good teats, good square legs and a correct head for the breed. I haven’t managed to breed one like that myself, but we keep on trying.

“Hopefully, our price will come back soon.”