Pig farming is a 'rewarding career'

Pig farming can be a very rewarding career with significant opportunities domestically and internationally, New Zealand Pork chairman Ian Carter says.

The Oamaru pig breeder and finisher says there are good employment opportunities out there and his greatest challenge as chairman is to encourage young people to take it up as a career and secure the future of pig farming in New Zealand.

Before purchasing his own piggery in 2003, Carter worked in the stud sheep industry, and then spent 15 years in the Auckland area working initially with pig breeding company PIC, then with Green and McCahill which included a 550-sow piggery. Carter and his wife, Jan, purchased their 146-hectare property south of Oamaru in 2003. The move was a break away from the fast track in Auckland and was driven by a desire to work for himself.

The property he bought has now expanded to 272 hectares and includes a 190-sow intensive piggery. The piggery is a farrow- to-finish indoor operation which supplies heavy pigs to Fresh Pork in Timaru. There is also a separate 600-head bull beef operation on the farm. The piggery produces 410 tonnes of meat annually - a volume that would require about 4500 cattle to generate.

Carter cites himself as an example of someone with no farming background (a first- generation farmer) who knew very little about the industry before he got involved in New Zealand's billion-dollar pork sector close to 25 years ago

"I am incredibly enthusiastic about the pork industry and its future in New Zealand. Pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world - accounting for about 40 per cent of meat consumption - and employment opportunities in the industry worldwide are huge and varied.

"What we need are positive role models. It's not a doom and gloom industry but one that is very competitive with opportunities both home and overseas. We need to create a better understanding of pig farming as a whole with young people and encourage them to work in the sector - after all, they are our future investors, workers and consumers."

Carter is quick to point out that the pork industry is also an early adaptor of new technology with world class innovations in place. The industry has made significant genetic gains compared to other primary industries as well as applying modern nutritional and environmental practices.

He says the industry doesn't come without its challenges from imported products, and a high New Zealand dollar over a number of years, coupled with the attraction of low cost imported pork into the domestic market, adds further pressure.

However, he says the benefit of a successful pig industry for New Zealand consumers is that they have access to the freshest, locally grown pork and pork products.

"It's a product we're proud of and it's labelled 100% NZ Pork so that you can easily identify the local product from the rest."

With about 800 tonnes of pig meat being imported every week, it is important that consumers can source the 100% NZ Pork labelled product.

Carter says his goal as chairman of NZPork is to build the profile of the industry, reduce misconceptions New Zealanders have on pig farming and ultimately gain consumer confidence.

"There will always be a demand for a domestic production base. My goal is to see the industry prosper. To do that, we need our farmers and owners to be confident in their investments so their future goals are possible and at the same time provide consumers with better understanding and comfort with what we farm and how we farm."

The Press