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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A day in School

Yesterday I attended a DPI run Stockplan course in Cooma. Of course I was the only pig farmer in attendance and nobody else really knew anything about pigs. But I did learn a lot about sheep and how to assess your feed strategy and plan.

The other day I talked briefly about marketing, the article I included was supposed to illustrate one end of the marketing scale. There are two other options, both less time and resource intensive, and probably not as lucrative as the Pasture Perfect outfit – but worth the effort all the same.

Firstly there is the sale of growers to the Islander and Maori populations. Pigs hold a very special place in the cultural traditions and social occasions of these people. Two people in our area previously supplied this market and booth turned over a considerable number of pigs. I’ve been told that they often turned people away.

It’s an easy market to enter – just place an advertisement in the local Fijian paper, put up a couple of flyers at the local Tongan Church hall or find somebody in the community and hand them a card. I’ve talked to people at the supermarket, be bold – they’re all very friendly people.

That’s the easy market – the harder market is the Europeans. They expect a lot more for their money and will haggle you down as far as possible. I had one gentleman bring receipts from the pig sales in Young to prove he could get a cheaper pig; I was told I shouldn’t charge so much for suckers because they cost me nothing and that my pigs weren’t fat enough. The secret here is not to be offended – they don’t mean to be offensive it’s just the way they do business, just be firm and friendly.

They also have their specific and traditional wants, some want suckling pigs others want weaners for spit roasts and others two year or older fat sows for sausage making. You won’t always have exactly what they want – and they won’t take anything else so don’t even try.

Somewhere in the middle of these is marketing to friends and relatives through word of mouth. The fellow I bought my first pigs from worked this way and swore by it. It’s a lot more forgiving and a lot less stressful. My brother works this fledgling pig enterprise this way and seems to be enjoying it.

I think one of the best pieces of advice I can give is to find the market you are comfortable with and stick to it. It’s very hard to produce enough pigs for one market alone – never mend trying to service two or more.

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