We continue to get customers who expect us to offer assurances that litters of weaners will be available on specific dates, in specific numbers and of specific sexes.
When I explain that it is not possible for any livestock operation to give those assurances, especially months in advance, the customers retort that they will find someone who will, express doubt about our honesty and intentions, and ask how we can remain in business when we don’t give customers what they want.
Many customers simply won’t accept that it is impossible to give assurances that litters will have a certain number of pigs, of the desired sex and available on a specific date.
They won’t accept that nature doesn’t work like that.
They won’t accept that we’re not a factory with with a predictable and reliable production schedule.
Unfortunately, I can’t just dismiss all the customers who come to us with the consumer expectation that they will get exactly what they want, on the date they want it and at a price that is cheaper than it was six months earlier. There are too many of them to ignore.
Instead, I explain that we can put a boar in with a sow when she comes into season but can’t ensure he serves her at the best time.
I explain that we can’t ensure a litter will take from that serving or that the litter will go to full term.
I explain that we can’t ensure the litter will be farrowed on the expected date, be the desired size or have the desired survival rate.
I explain that we can’t ensure the weather will co-operate to ensure the desired growth rate by the sale date and that bigger litters usually mean smaller weaners while smaller litters mean larger ones.
Customers listen to all that and still demand assurances they will get what they want.
I am not going to give assurances that litters will be the size anticipated, with the sexes desired by customers and available on the desired dates at the specific, desired size.
It doesn’t work like that and anyone who says different is either totally naive or a liar.
The big commercial pig operations can come close to meeting some aspects of those desires for predictability, especially in terms of serving and farrowing dates, through the use of various drugs but even they can’t give the sort of assurances that customers expect and demand of us—no matter how ridiculous those expectations are.
We do the best we can to target times of peak demand, produce pigs with provenance and in good health and sell pigs that we actually have on the croft. We are not going to guarantee more than that.
It’s ironic that we’re treated with suspicion for being honest about the realities of pig breeding and production, while customers will happily hand over their money to people who offer all sorts of warm assurances and guarantees but don’t deliver.
It happens in the so-called “micro-pig” market. It happens with haphazard cross breeds that purport to be specific breeds or have specific qualities. It has happened with “virtual pig” and “pig share” operations.
Many of the assurances that customers demand and are given are worse than worthless, but they still want them and are suspicious of those of us who don’t offer them.
They should remember that we, and other responsible pig breeders, don’t give assurances that cannot be met.
We sell the pigs that we have, when they are ready. No more and no less.
- ‘Why can’t we save the pigs?’ (stoneheadcroft.com)
- £93.70 to kill a pig (stoneheadcroft.com)
- Sustainable food only sells if it’s cheap (stoneheadcroft.com)