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Asger Krogsgaard

Feature: Unfinished business

A long-standing aim of the Danish pig industry is to increase the number of finished pigs for slaughter in Denmark. Asger and Dorthe Krogsgaard, the husband and wife team who run Mogensgård, an extensive farming business on the west coast of the Jutland peninsula, are certainly playing a major part in that. A key to reaching that goal is new investment in modern pig finishing capacity and a major expansion of his pig producing enterprise was completed recently.

Asger Krogsgaard, 49, who has been farming for 23 years, took over the farm from his parents who had 100 sows and 30 hectares of land. Today, with 1,700 sows and 55,000 piglets (33,000 of which he finishes himself, the rest he sells to two neighbouring producers) the business is almost unrecognisable from its modest beginnings. With an annual production of over 30,000 finished pigs per year, Mogensgård is one of the largest suppliers to Danish Crown’s main slaughterhouse in Horsens and the company’s smaller, more specialist operation in Herning.

 
 Mogensgård finishes 33,000 pigs per year

 

“Significant investment is required to run successful production of finished pigs. It also requires daily focus and a committed team,” says Asger Krogsgaard, a major figure in Danish pig production. As Chairman of the Danish Pig Levy Fund, a board member of Danish Crown and a board member of Tulip, Danish Crown’s processing arm in the UK, he depends on his own team of 18 employees to manage day-to-day operations. Together they run eight production sites – two for sows, one for gilts, one for piglets and four for finishing pigs.

“My decision to invest in new pig finishing capacity makes good business sense in the medium and long term. The relative price of weaners and finishers regularly fluctuates and having my own production of finished pigs helps bring more stability to my overall business.”


Importance of teamwork

Teamwork and employee well-being are crucial to the success of the business. Every member of the team is provided with breakfast and a hot lunch every day and an exchange of views is encouraged. “I’m a farmer because I think it’s great to be surrounded by people and my daily interaction with the team means a lot to me,” says Krogsgaard.

 

 
 Mastrup Manager, Kim Vanting, with Asger Krogsgaard

Improving efficiency

Overseeing the pig finishing business, including the operation at the newest unit, Mastrup, built at a cost of DKK 23 million three years ago, is Kim Vanting who is currently working closely with a team from their feed supplier, the DLG Group on a feed project known as DLG GainMax.

One of the largest agricultural companies in Europe and owned by 29,000 farmers, DLG has, in partnership with IT experts and pig producers, developed a computerised system that measures daily gain and feed consumption on a weekly basis. For this purpose, large stainless steel weighing scales have been installed in the gangway at Mastrup and the weekly weighing – which is reported to be rather popular with the pigs – enables the consequences of human error, changes in feeding strategy or disease to be addressed immediately.

 

 
 New weighing scales

 

The team is now three months into the project and the results are promising. “Not only does GainMax provide an incentive for the team in that they can see the results of their efforts on a weekly print-out, it will ultimately deliver higher productivity and an improved bottom line,” says Krogsgaard. “I’m keen to see our meat percentage results improve and I believe we can do this by analysing feed consumption more closely. One of the current issues for us is to find a solution to the conundrum that the higher the daily gain, the lower the lean meat percentage.”

Bjarne Brixen, Product Consultant at DLG and a former pig farmer himself believes that with the right tools, finished pig production in Denmark could be much more competitive. “We need to see greater focus on finished pig production here. In the past ten years, Denmark has increased production of finished pigs by 10 per cent whereas piglet production has increased by 70 per cent owing to the lucrative markets for our piglets in Germany and Poland.

“Our GainMax system enables housing units to be emptied earlier so that more pigs can be brought in for finishing. In the end, it’s all a question of cost/benefit. If we can help farmers achieve better feed conversion and daily gain, this will result in more finished pigs which in turn provides a lot of work for a lot of people.”

Feed production

With 780 acres of the Mogensgård operation being given over to cereal production, the team produce their own feed and grow one third of their total requirements. They buy the rest from neighbouring farms. Maize, barley, rapeseed (which is sold to third parties) and wheat are rotated on a five-year basis and because the land provides poor growing conditions, irrigation is necessary up to six times a year. Three years ago, the team started to grow maize, which provides good feed conversion and helps the pigs’ digestion.

In addition to minerals, vitamins and soya, the feed is supplemented with waste bread from a local bakery, a partnership that suits both parties very well not least because, from a nutritional viewpoint, bread is around 75 to 80% as valuable as maize.

Adding value

Listed among the values that Asger Krogsgaard ascribes to the Mogensgård business are “Be in front” and “Value Creation”. Both are manifested in a wind turbine project that has called for significant investment over the two years that it has been evolving. “Although it’s not our core business, of course, the project has been taking up a lot of our time,” says Krogsgaard. “We own two of the five turbines that we’ve erected on our land just outside Ringkøbing. The other three are owned by a neighbour. It seemed an obvious venture for us to get involved in. We live next to the sea and our nearest neighbour is the wind! Government subsidies are available – 25 øre (approx. 25p) for each kW produced for the first six years and when all five turbines are in operation, there will be enough power for 10,000 households.”

New technology

Mogensgård is also “in front” when it comes to new air cleaning technology, which has been installed in the pig finishing units. With the added benefit of minimising manual cleaning and maintenance, the biological air cleaning system cleans the air through a filter while removing the nitrogen in the air.

 

 
 New air cleaning technology

 

As to the future of the Danish pig industry in general, siblings Mogens and Jesper Krogsgaard will soon be fully fledged farmers and will join their mother and father in what they see as a business that offers great potential. “Denmark has enormous know-how and we are efficient at what we do. Our new Food and Environment Minister, Eva Kjer Hansen, is telling the right story to encourage young people to consider pig farming as a career. I’m proud of Denmark’s high standards and the fact that we can document everything in our production. This, coupled with our high level of investment in R&D, means that we’re well positioned to compete profitably in world markets.”

 

 
 New Mastrup pig finishing facility at Mogensgård

 

For more information about Asger and Dorthe Krogsgaard and their team, visit http://www.mogensgaard.net/  

Photography by Axel Søgaard - http://www.mesterfotograf.dk/