If tradition and experience had been his guide-lines, 24-year-old Robert Allen of Ballybreagh, Portadown, would not be in pig farming at all.
Indeed, eight years ago – when Robert was 16 and about to leave school – who would have backed his plan to introduce pigs for the first time on a major scale onto the family 50-acre holding?
His enthusiasm may not have been in dispute but his experience was nil and he was going against the family farming tradition.
For despite a life-time in agriculture, Mr and Mrs James Allen never favoured pigs. However, they decided not to stand in their son’s way and the success which has attended the new venture points to the soundness of their judgment.
Pigs are now clearly established as the main enterprise on the farm while other changes – particularly in the cattle – are gearing the overall programme for the Seventies and beyond.
But let Robert take up the story …
“While I was always interested in farming I simply don’t know what drove me towards pigs,” he remarked. “However, despite my total lack of experience I felt that this was a line well worth developing.”
Nor had he the beginner’s luck which so often gives a learner such a welcome initial boost.
There was that “almost disastrous” first plunge when he bought 30 suckers on the open market getting his fingers “well burned” in the process.
Even the two sows kept as the foundation of a herd did little to improve the picture. And there was the problem of an extensive building programme.
Robert commented rather wryly: “It wasn’t a very exciting start but rather an expensive education. However, I was gaining experience and was determined to battle on.”
But those early disappointments were overcome principally through some gilts bought at shows and sales at Balmoral and a promising herd was established. Brother Ronnie’s skill as a joiner solved the building problems.
Today the breeding herd – mainly crossbred with some pure Landrace – is 35-strong with the bulk of the produce being finished to bacon.
Occasionally a litter is sold on the sucker market but after bacon the main sales are of maiden gilts to a number of regular customers.