A local student from Harper Adams University is taking on a key role in the animal feed industry.

Stephen Evans, from Fintona, is about to take on a role as ForFarmers UK Young Animal Feeds Specialist. This is his story.

I am from Fintona and went to school at Fivemiletown College. Although not coming from a farming background, I developed an early keen interest in agriculture, working on local dairy and beef farms.

I entered Harper Adams University in 2019 to study for a BSc (Honours) in agriculture, leaving my options open for the future.

My interest and later passion for the pig industry started in 2020 when I undertook a summer placement with SM Pigs Ltd. in Strabane.

After completing my placement, and on my return to Harper, I successfully applied for the Agriculture and Horticultural Development Board Pig Industry Scholarship, sponsored by ForFarmers.

This is the UK’s major pig industry scholarship offered at Harper Adams.

I joined ForFarmers in August, 2021, as a Sales Development Student based in Suffolk. Older readers may recognise the origins of the company in the UK as being BOCM, Silcock.

ForFarmers is a Total Feeds Solutions provider, operating across Europe including the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland.

The company innovates, manufactures and delivers feed for dairy, beef, sheep, pig, poultry and game sectors.

ForFarmers’ commitment is ‘For the Future of Farming’, which ensures all its plans are made with a long-term outlook in support of sustainable farming.

Since joining the business, I have been given the opportunity to experience all areas of the business.

The business is divided into four team areas: the Young Animal Feed (YAF) team, and the technical, marketing and supply chain teams.

I have been attached mainly to the Young Animal Feed team, but have worked alongside the other teams.

By working alongside these other teams, I have gained an insight into how they interact to give their customers the best possible experience.

Each of these teams have provided me with a true insight to the industry and how ForFarmers as a company work together with their customers to provide consistent high-quality products and services.

ForFarmers has provided me with additional opportunities over the past 12 months, from being able to attend the National Pig Awards Dinner in London in November to attending the Pig and Poultry Fair in Stoneleigh in May.

These events allowed me to see the industry from all perspectives and absorb the knowledge of those who are in it.

I even had the chance to meet with my old boss, Raymond Bradford, from SM Pigs Ltd. in Strabane.

From working closely with the YAF team at ForFarmers I have taken a keen interest in the starter feed division of the pig business.

It is here I believe that the most crucial part of a pig’s life lies, feeding it the correct nutrients and vitamins to stimulate its immune system stabilisation as it grows. This is becoming quite the challenge for the industry as Zinc Oxide is removed from diets.

Over the past 13 months on placement with the ForFarmers pig team, I have realised that the current state of the UK pig industry is something that can only be described as "a catastrophic disaster", compared to where the industry was when I was enthused initially about a career in the industry in 2020.

It is evident that the increases of raw materials and energy costs, and labour shortages, over the past 13 months, place the industry unfortunately on a downward turn.

Even with the recent increase in pig prices to a level that hasn’t been seen in decades, it still isn’t enough for the UK pig farmer to break even.

AHDB noted in June that the cost of production was estimated at 240p/kg deadweight. With recent literature also published by AHDB noting that demand for pork within the UK is set to decrease, the expectation is of a reduction of the UK herd.

A 6 per cent fall in production is expected. The industry can only hope to see a glimmer of light as we move towards the end of what can be noted as a dark year in the industry.

However, from what the industry has had to endure over the past period, I believe that the industry as a whole is nothing but resilient.

This resilience, I believe, is the key attraction for me to consider a career in the industry. Even though we have witnessed long-established pig producers leaving the industry, it is evident that the sector will survive what is its worst downturn in recent years, and will rebound as a consolidated and prosperous industry.

A prosperous industry needs qualified and enthusiastic newcomers. New entrant graduates in particular must be willing to adapt to the changing demands of customers.

The AHDB Pig Scholarship programme is an excellent way to encourage students to gain experience within the UK pig industry and provide an insight into the range of career opportunities that the industry offers.

I am glad that I got my first insight into the industry and enthusiasm for the industry with SM Pigs in Strabane, became an enthusiast for the pig industry and was awarded the top UK pig industry scholarships to work with ForFarmers.

I have accepted the offer of a job on graduation to become a ForFarmers UK Young Animal Feeds Specialist.