TALES FROM THE FIELDS: ‘You’re way out in front,’ Ulster pig farmers told

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Northern Ireland’s pig set-up came in for high praise this week in 1970 following an on-the-spot check by leading members of the Canadian industry to the province.

Mr Blake Snobelen, chairman of the Ontario Pork Producers’ Marketing Board and Mr Dayre Peer, board comptroller – two of a party of 30 visiting various areas in the United Kingdom – were obviously highly impressed by the key factors in the local industry.

Clearly familiar with the activities of the Pigs Marketing Board here Mr Snobelen declared: “Your board has built a secure industry. It has done a wonderful job in marketing and encouraging farmers to produce top quality pigs.”

Of the McGuckian unit at Cloughmills, Mr Snobelen said it was quite impossible to overpraise “what is undoubtedly one of the finest pig farms in the world”.

The Canadian visitor said: “I have never seen so many pigs on one farm so uniform in type. They were meaty, lean, growthy with excellent conversion from feed while the health status was also excellent.”

Generally the Ulster pigs he had seen were superior in quality to those in Canada where in addition to Landrace and Yorks they had some local breeds mixed in.

IN FRONT

Northern Ireland was “way out in front” in performance testing and the work of the ministry’s pig testing station at Antrim “is clearly playing a key role in this vital quality sector”.

Both Mr Snobelen and Mr Ivan Heaney, manager of the station, agreed that an increase in the exchange of information between Canada and Northern Ireland was ‘highly-desirable”.

The short visit also took in the Ulster Farmers’ Bacon Co (Newry) Ltd while there was a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Phelim O’Neill, and top Ministry officials.

Speaking generally of the pig situation in Canada Mr Snobelen explained that they had small and large producers with a trend to bigger and fewer units. Environment controlled housing was much the same as in Ulster.

With home grain available and soya bean sources at hand the cost of production was much lower in Canada – he reckoned that feed cost between £6 and £7 a ton less. Because of over production both in, Canada and the United States producer prices were lower at the moment – slightly over £10 a cwt and around £16 a pig, compared, with about £20 early in the year.

He told how the Ontario Board had embraced about 25,000 producers and that in 1970 it was expected to handle over three million hogs – worth in the region of £60 million.

All pig meat from large hams to two-ounce portions of ‘convenience foods’ are attractively presented in packages for sale to the house wives.

In Canada pigs were sold live in Dutch auctions at so much per 100 lbs, but the actual producers return is governed by how the carcase grades out. Throughout the country large marshalling yards are used for the pig auctions.

All 15 members of the Ontario Pork Producers’ Marketing Board who had travelled to Northern Ireland in December 1970 were producer nominated but a government appointed body had final responsibility for all commodities marketed.

Meanwhile also in the agri news this week in 1970 it was reported that more than 260 members and friends had attended the Glens of Antrim Co-Operative Society’s dinner dance and presentation of prizes in Larne.

Mr John McCullough, who presided and welcomed the guests, spoke of the progress made by the Co-op since it was formed about six years. He thanked the officials, the members and those who worked behind the scenes to make the organisation’s work “so very worthwhile”.

The trophies and prizes – won at the annual show and sale were handed over by the donors to the winners.

Mr Peter Callaghan’s cup for the championship went to Mr Arthur Mulvenna, of Gowkstown, Glenarm; Mr Terry McLoman’s cup for the best group of four to Mr

Robert Brady, of Cairn castle; and the Silcock Tankard, handed over by Mr Desmond McMullan, the firm’s representative, went to Mr Arthur Mulvenna, Gowkstown (best single calf outside the group entry).