Disaster plans made

Pig In A Box option ... Le Mee Farm owners Hamish and Vicki Mee.PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES
Pig In A Box option ... Le Mee Farm owners Hamish and Vicki Mee.PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES
Vicki and Hamish Mee are planning a ‘‘worst case scenario’’ for stock at their Mid Canterbury free-farm piggery.

The Mees run Le Mee Farms and also have a cropping operation.

Their planning follows restrictions during the lockdown period which stop independent butchers from opening, and make any sale of pork limited to supermarket stores, other processors or retailers which were open.

As imported pork was still allowed, the Mees were preparing themselves for a different future market post-lockdown.

‘‘Pigs do not just stop growing because markets have been restricted from us,’’ they said.

‘‘All farmers are doing everything in their power to find markets for all pigs — but are bloody frustrated by the barriers that have been put in front of our industry by the Government.’’

Commercial farms typically supply pigs to market on a weekly basis, and do not have the facilities to store extra stock on site.

During the lockdown the Mees said supermarkets had only managed to take 14% more pork than their normal volumes, which illustrated how crucial butchers were to the industry.

Restrictions on butchers were damaging to the pork industry as they were an ‘‘extremely important part of the pork industry – a market that is definitely needed’’.

‘‘We sell approximately 190 baconers each week, at 70kg dead weight.

‘‘Most of our pork goes to supermarkets under their free farmed label. However, the pork schedule — price per kilo — is dropping dramatically due to the restricted markets we are dealing with.’’

Le Mee Farms sell around 190 baconers weighing 70kg each week. Photo: Supplied.
Le Mee Farms sell around 190 baconers weighing 70kg each week. Photo: Supplied.

Imported pork was flooding the market.

‘‘Unfortunately, out of all the pork consumed in NZ, 62% is imported annually, with 95%  of imports being illegal to raise in NZ, as it does not meet our minimum animal welfare standards.’’ 

While to date the Mees have sold all their pigs to markets, they realise this could change quickly.

‘‘We have had to purchase five new tunnel houses and of course all the necessary requirements within them  .. . these would be used to accommodate weaner pigs on a temporary basis.

‘‘The problem with holding pigs is that the pigs continue to grow and therefore outgrow the market weight requirements — creating more issues — a no-win situation.’’

‘‘We have been brainstorming a lot lately — and have created an idea of ‘Pig-in-a-box’. We are currently in discussion with our butcher regarding options and pricing.

‘‘The response we are fielding at present has been extremely positive and encouraging ... but again, ever-evolving restrictions and regulations could create a few problems under the current environment.

‘‘It is pretty much business as usual workload-wise for us and our staff — we mate, farrow, wean and sell weekly.’’

The couple have put on hold all maintenance and farm developments and, for now, continue to operate on a basic level to keep everyone safe.

In trying to keep a level of sanity the Mees have taken to Skyping with friends over drinks and said ‘‘enjoying a few laughs helps a lot’’.

To other farmers  they say: ‘‘we are all in this together, hang in there’’.

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