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Shortage of labour leaves pigs stuck on Norfolk farms

Labour shortages are causing a crisis in the pig industry with thousands of animals stranded on farms.

Abbatoirs are struggling to find workers and are having to cut down on the number of animals they can process.

It means that pig numbers are growing and those ready for slaughter are having to stay on the farms, putting on weight, becoming more difficult to handle and increasing farmers’ feed costs.

Ed Lankfer with South-West Norfolk MP Liz Truss at his farm earlier in the summer.
Ed Lankfer with South-West Norfolk MP Liz Truss at his farm earlier in the summer.

It is a problem countrywide and in Norfolk where an abbatoir at Watton would normally slaughter at least 8,000 pigs in a week.

Ed Lankfer, is chairman of Downham and Southery National Farmers Union branch, and a pig farmer.

He said: “Because they are so short of workers, that number is currently running around 1,800 animals down every week. The number they take depends on the number of staff they have at any one time so it is all very uncertain.”

He said that farmers who breed pigs want to move them on to farms like his at Wereham which takes animals weighing around 35 kilos and fattens them to about 120 kilos ready for slaughter.

Pigs enjoying attention in the barn (50814069)
Pigs enjoying attention in the barn (50814069)

“Because I am sending less animals to the abbatoir the whole process is slowed down and gets backed up.”

Ed said he knows a number of other farmers in the same situation.

Labour supply issues have been getting worse, especially over the last few weeks, he said, suggesting that Covid lockdown and Brexit could be factors.

He said that farmers are finding themselves with pigs that are growing and need more space so there are also welfare issues looming.

The National Pig Association has said that if pigs get too big they can be rejected for slaughter. It could leading to healthy pigs being destroyed and a shortage of pork.

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