For most organic farms in Wallonia, pig farming is only a small part of their business model, with pigs raised alongside other activities. At some diversified farms, farmers even adjust the size of their pig herds according to the products or by-products they wish to sell.
The fact that pig farming is incorporated into other activities makes it difficult to measure performance. While herd management software programs give farmers detailed insights into pig farming productivity and profitability, organic farmers tend not to use them because they are geared towards specialist farms, are relatively expensive to buy, and take time to configure. These practical challenges mean that, as things stand, data on organic pig farming is hard to come by.
Yet producing data is vital – both for farmers, so they can get objective information and adjust their system accordingly, and for the sector as a whole, so that reliable statistics about the state of the industry in Wallonia can be produced. The CRA-W and the Belgian Union of Agrobiologists (UNAB) have therefore joined forces to provide TresoGest – a simplified financial management tool developed as part of CRA-W organic farming research – to members of the organic pig farmers’ group. The tool was used to gather economic data from around a dozen organic pig farmers using a variety of different, diversified systems (breeding, fattening, and outdoor- and indoor-rearing). The results were then presented at a group feedback workshop, where farmers had a chance to talk about their practices and the circumstances under which they operate.
The TresoGest tool, and the associated group dynamic, have proven extremely useful for some members of the organic pig farmers’ group. At the Action Research in Organic Farming Day event, organised on 29 November by the CRA-W (presentations available online), participants talked about the tool’s benefits and the challenges around large-scale deployment.
Farmers require adequate support and monitoring to use the TresoGest tool, and efforts to promote wider uptake involve making it available online and working in tandem with support organisations. The AgriCoGest development project, designed with precisely these aims in mind, was recently accepted under the SPW/DGO3 call for proposals. The project will combine Tresogest with Ecobox, a pooled online access tool developed by Groupe One for very small businesses.