INNOVATION, COLLABORATION AND PLENTY OF OPTIMISIM
16 May 2019
Although the UK pig sector continues to see significant rationalisation Rattlerow Farms’ business activities buck this trend.
With steady expansion the family-owned company continues to invest, targeting organic growth and innovation that is benefitting its own business and the wider pig industry. The company’s team-spirited ethos and the partnership approach towards its own customers and the industry at large is a winning formular.
Robin Lawson, Rattlerow’s General Manager, says the firm’s core business remains pig genetics, but its activities are being shaped in line with market demands.
“UK pig production is evolving and there are opportunities out there at many different levels,” he adds.
The company has forged working partnerships with integrated companies, including Karro and Cranswick, and now manages in-house breeding and gilt replacement programmes. It has also invested in an independent AI business – Klasse AI – which has seen considerable expansion during the past two years.
“UK pig production is evolving and there are opportunities out there at many different levels…” – Robin Lawson
Klasse’s launch in 2016 marked a significant change in how AI is supplied to UK herds. All of its studs offer semen from a selection of elite, performance-tested genetic lines sourced in the UK, Europe and the US.
By working collaboratively with leading breeders, Klasse is able to deliver all pig businesses, not only Rattlerow customers, a wide selection of world class genetics from ‘under one roof’. The strategy has proved highly successful with AI sales continuing to increase significantly, year on year.
“Our customer base is growing because pig producers like the convenience of being able to obtain all of their AI requirements from one place. The collaborative ethos is also improving the quality and efficiency of AI services delivered to UK farms and it’s created opportunities to grow our AI business and maintain investment in new technology and innovation, which is good news for the UK pig industry,” adds Robin.
A £750,000 expansion programme was completed during 2018 across all 4 of its studs. It included additional boar accommodation, the latest semen screening, processing and quality control equipment and some new genetic lines. The newest boar is the EBX, a terminal sire from the US, which is claimed to be one of the leanest, most rapid-growing terminal sires in the world. Developed by Choice Genetics in Iowa, EBX has a proven track record, and is an ideal terminal sire for UK herds. It’s lean, with unrivalled growth performance and exceptional carcase qualities.
“There’s strong demand for these genetics here and it’s our mission to provide customers with what they need to improve business efficiency in the most convenient and cost-effective way we can,” says Simon Guise, UK Sales Manager with Rattlerow Farms and Klasse AI.
Contract opportunities, value-added benefits
Elsewhere, Rattlerow’s practical know-how and innovative approach to herd management continues to engineer change in the UK’s commercial sector.
The company runs 4000 commercial sows of its own and farms 2000 acres of arable land. Rising productivity in its breeding herd, continues to swell slaughter pig numbers – it is currently producing some 3,000 bacon pigs a week and is keen to secure more contract finishing places.
“It’s our mission to provide customers with what they need to improve business efficiency in the most convenient and cost-effective way we can … – Simon Guise
“We offer third-party partners a good package that suits new enterprise and/or existing pig businesses. And we’re flexible too, so can tailor a contract to fit with an existing business or provide the support and technical expertise required to start up a new venture,” says Robin Lawson, confidently.
Where possible, Rattlerow aims to standardise its finishing operations. Its preference is straw-based, all-in, all-out systems that comply with Red Tractor/RSPCA Freedom Food standards. Contractors can choose to take pigs from weaning at four weeks of age (7kgs) or from 25-30kgs live weight and rear them on through to slaughter at 110kgs.
New-build projects are ideal, and Rattlerow can offer incentives that reward producers for their investment and recognise the benefits that new accommodation can bring to pig health and performance. Payback for such sites is usually between 5 and 7 years, so economically it’s an attractive option for new entrants with suitable sites. However, premises that have livestock buildings are equally viable and Rattlerow’s pig specialists and technical design team can supply refurbishment recommendations to optimise efficiency and profit potential.
Individual contracts are drawn up in line with specific business requirements and are often adapted to match the skills, labour and resources available on a farm. Any training and technical support is provided and new entrants are usually supported through their first few batches with hands-on help from fieldsman Keith Wiseman.
“We want to encourage new entrants and inspire more young people to consider farming. There are opportunities in pig production and we have a wealth of experience to draw on, a good track record and partnerships that can meet their aspirations. Those that have joined us in the past, have stayed with us and that’s a credible endorsement,” says Robin.