Jones family and CEFN an industry success story
AS MAJOR shareholder and director of one of the leading players in the Australian pig industry, Ian Jones, doesn't believe in sitting back and resting on his laurels.
His family's company, CEFN Pty Ltd, is based in Clifton, but has business ties across south-east Asia and throughout Australia.
That trip transformed my whole life, as I came back with so many ideas. It probably gave us a sense of direction.
It was started by his father, Keith, with half a dozen large white pigs back in 1941, and today boasts 4500 sows housed in total confinement on four farms totalling 2226 hectares in the Clifton district.
Ian's two sons, Marcus and Andrew, are also directors of the company, with Marcus just stepping into the role of chairman last year, after his father held the reins for the past 40.
"My dad went farming in the Pilton Valley in the late 1920's, and started CEFN in 1941," Ian said.
"He was a mixed small farmer with 30 head of dairy cattle and half a dozen weaner pigs, which he grew out on waste from the dairy."
From those humble beginnings, CEFN is today a multi-million dollar business and industry leader when it comes to innovation and pig genetics.
They are responsible for Australia's first disease free piggery, by producing piglets via a full hysterectomy of the sow.
"Dad was a pioneer, but with it came its advantages and disadvantages," Ian said.
"Pioneering costs money, and other people cash in on your ideas.
"Dad purchased his first stud pigs in 1940 - two sows and a boar, and that set him up as a breeder.
"The first recorded sale in our books was in September, 1940, when dad sold a pig he'd bred for 3 pounds 3 shillings.
"He was a very good showman, and showed his pigs in Brisbane, as well as being a well-known judge."
Ian said the momentum shifted for his family in 1952, when his father moved to a four hectare farm running 60 sows.
"The pigs were fed on feed milled on site, with no milk, which was very new in those days," he said.
"People from all over Australia came to field days, which dad held in conjunction with the Department of Primary Industries on the farm.
"Dad housed his pigs in a compact farm with hose-out floors, and farrowing in confinement, which was very innovative back then."
Another change came in 1963, when his father bought and stocked a new farm, and that is where they produced piglets by full hysterectomy, in partnership with the University of Queensland.
"We were able to take pigs on point of farrowing, do a full hysterectomy, and the piglets were artificially reared from day one," Ian said.
"That produced a disease free farm, and once the process was established we sold our old farm.
"It was a grand experiment and hugely expensive, but the old boy had balls of steel.
"It broke the cycle of internal parasites, and is the first and only time it has been done in Australia."
The company has gone from strength to strength since then, and CEFN are now industry leaders when it comes to pig genetics.
"We now sell semen rather than animals, and have an internal nucleus of six major breeders all over Australia, that work with our CEFN program," Ian said.
"We often do their genetics for them, and provide them with information on which animals to select for their breeding nucleus."
CEFN now also undertakes all its measurements on its pigs ultrasonically.
"We can tell the thickness of fat and eye muscle area, and can select for that now on a live pig," Ian said.
Another history making venture which CEFN was part of, was the live transportation of 6800 breeders from Clifton to Borneo, via Darwin, back in 1989.
"There was five shipments on Fraser's trucks from here to Darwin by road, and from Darwin to Borneo by boat. I drove the support truck and it nearly killed me. It was a huge deal," Ian said.
He also recalls a life changing trip to England in 1976, when he was just 25 years old, which shaped the way the business would eventually go.
"I was to go to work on a pig farm in Kent, but never made it, as I met up with the president of the British Landrace Association one night, and he introduced me to connections all over the world," Ian said.
"During that trip I met and became friends with Dr John King, who was a professor at the University of Edinburgh, which was the world centre for animal genetics at the time," he said.
"He also put me in contact with a friend in Roskilde, Denmark, who was doing fascinating stuff with carcase dissection, and measurement of carcases of live pigs.
"That trip transformed my whole life, as I came back with so many ideas. It probably gave us a sense of direction. We knew we needed better productivity and needed to better address consumer needs."
Ian said they then knew they couldn't keep producing fat pigs, and focussed more on diets.
"Now every kilogram of food is measured, and all our pigs have access to unlimited food," he said.
"We grow a lean carcase with unrestricted food, and that's not easy as every phase of the pig's growth has a different diet."
CEFN's brand, Pilton Valley Pork, came into being in 2009, and has become a very successful marketing move.
They now sell their branded pork to butcher shops as far south as Coffs Harbour, north to Noosa and west to Roma, with it accounting for one third of their business.
Another third of their stock goes to markets in Singapore.
"It is all flown fresh into Singapore, after being killed in an abattoir in Booyong, northern New South Wales," Ian said.
"It is packed in stockings and delivered to Brisbane Airport, where it is flown directly to Singapore," he said.
"Housewives over there have access to that pork at the same time housewives in Brisbane do, with it taking seven hours by air. It arrives in the wet markets in Singapore the following day."
Ian said the company has utilised the same agent in Singapore since 1967.
"He used to sell our breeding stock over there but now sells our pork through his own butcher shop," he said.
"There's not a pig on the island any more as the domestic market closed down in 1985."
CEFN sends about 200 pigs per week to Singapore, depending on the time of the year eg Chinese New Year, however Ian said their major market was their Sydney wholesaler.
"In total, we sell about 1500 bodies per week, including Singapore and Sydney, with a lot of the wholesale pork being sold to Coles and Woolworths," he said.
Ian believes there is no money in selling a commodity, and feels all Australian farmers should take a leaf out of his book.
"There is no future for farmers in selling a commodity. They (consumers) need to identify with the brand," he said.
"They need to brand their own product.
"That's the future as I see it."
Ian said it was a hard decision to branch out and establish Pilton Valley Pork, because it was easier to put a pig on a truck and leave it up to someone else.
He believes there are three rules that govern the marketing of any commodity.
"Firstly you must be able to produce at a lower than average cost for your industry. Also your production must be higher than average for your industry, and thirdly, you must be able to market it to gain value for the product," Ian said.
A recent project that CEFN has undertaken is the purchase of a 1000 tonne/week capacity feed mill from Europe which is housed on their Strathane piggery.
"Our farm, however, doesn't have the electricity to run it, so we use diesel engines at present, but are looking into the use of methane from our waste ponds as a power source."
In February this year, Ian and Andrew travelled to Pennsylvania to witness a piggery using methane as an energy source.
"If we can use energy from methane, it not only produces electricity, but is also good for the environment," he said.