Ruth Thomas, 32, is the manager of 1,100 breeding sows and a 4,000-place nursery on a 48ha farm in Norfolk.

The free range unit has just been converted from a four week wean to a five week wean and is also producing replacement gilts. In the nursery, she is responsible for vaccinating and sexing piglets leaving the farm.

The company is in the process of obtaining planning permission to add two new fattening sheds capable of accommodating 1,900 pigs, into which the nursery would feed.

See also: Livestock occupations: Working as a pig farmer

Road to work

Ruth was raised on a smallholding and has always enjoyed being around animals. After leaving school at 16, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do and started working at a recreation center, where she earned a diploma as an accounting technician, which came in handy in her its current role.

She applied for a few farming jobs during this time, but said it was difficult to get into it as a farmer.

Meanwhile, Ruth spent her free time helping out at a nearby cattle farm, and when the business was expanded in August 2014, she was offered the opportunity to become a full-time employee and run the business. breeding unit, into which she jumped.

Ruth worked in another unit for three months to learn as much as possible. His first gilts arrived in December and the work has been growing ever since.

She has taken several training courses through AHDB Pork including the Stockperson Development Scheme, Stockperson Plus and Stockperson Pro which she says were really helpful and taught her a lot.

Today, Ruth manages three full-time and two part-time staff and the day-to-day management of the unit, together with the farm owner.

Most of his time is spent feeding and controlling the pigs, farrowing, artificial insemination, weaning, sexing and vaccination, as well as training his team.

She also takes care of all the paperwork, including VAT declarations and staff payroll, and in the summer she helps with packing and bringing in the straw.

“You don’t have to have any qualifications to do this job and sometimes it’s easier when people have never done anything like this before because I can train them my way,” Ruth said.

“I like the diversity of the work; no two days are alike. Pigs are my true love as they all have different characters and I love working outdoors.

Job profile

What the work ?

Be responsible for: planning the daily routine, managing and developing the team, maintaining safe working practices and protocols, recording and managing data, and working with the veterinarian to maintain the health and production efficiency.

What experience is needed?

A solid technical understanding of pig production is required, along with good people skills including communication, an understanding of learning styles and coaching skills.

How can you gain the necessary experience?

Pig production skills are usually acquired by working and progressing in the industry. The development of interpersonal skills can be acquired through recognized management and leadership courses.

Additional courses that take advantage of this role could also come from colleges and organizations such as the AHDB.

What funding is available?

Most employers recognize the additional skills their managers need for this role and provide training opportunities with funding.

The AHDB also helps facilitate this by linking training providers to producers and, in some cases, offering these courses on a partially funded basis.

What are the benefits of this job?

Working in some of the most scenic parts of the countryside, and although the work is routine, it can be very rewarding to be part of a successful team and a productive unit.

The challenge of running the unit and training new employees can be very satisfying.

What would be a typical salary?

Packages start at around £25,000/year depending on experience and track record.

Proven progression and performance can take the salary to around £40,000 to £45,000 with a house, use of a vehicle, health insurance and additional annual leave.

How to evolve in this role?

Progression from the position of unit manager is often a personal choice reflecting the choice of a more independent career path.

This could include becoming a field man for a large company handling multiple units, working as a technical expert for an allied industry, or taking the plunge and starting your own unit.

How can employers best manage and retain staff for this role?

Key factors include providing modern, well-maintained facilities, creating a business philosophy that encourages staff development, and understanding the need to improve work-life balance for both manager and employee. team he leads.

Source: Andrew Palmer, AHDB Pork Knowledge Exchange Relations Manager