Unit manager (pigs)

Unit manager (pigs)

The pig unit manager is responsible for running a productive and sustainable unit.
Also known as agricultural manager / livestock manager / farmer.

This profile highlights the skills and knowledge associated with the role. However, jobs will have varying responsibilities depending on level of the role and the size or type of the business.

Pig units are often equipped with cutting-edge technology, and the unit manager will be required to make regular data reports on performance to owners.

Working as a unit manager is both challenging and rewarding. You'll need to make decisions to help develop your business while producing a high-quality, safe product. 

As a unit manager, you'll oversee the processes of serving (breeding), farrowing (birthing), weaning, and growing pigs. You'll also have an overview of breeding strategies by using modern, high-quality genetics. 

Unit managers, whether running indoor or outdoor operations, must act to protect the natural environment and make sure animals are looked after in the best way possible. They also make sure the unit remains profitable.  

Units can range from small, family-owned farms to large, multi-site companies. The career progression routes and level of automation are quite different between indoor and outdoor pigs, with more technology and automation being present in the care of pigs reared indoors. 

Many unit managers have progressed in their careers either by starting as a stockperson and building on-the-job skills and experience or by completing a relevant degree in agriculture.  

As a manager, you'll also mentor and manage staff, as well as managing business relationships with suppliers, contractors, and advisers to make sure the business runs smoothly and effectively. 

Often, you'll work closely with and plan alongside the farm owner or management consultants. You'll also work with different advisers to ensure the farm works efficiently, productively, and to best practice.  

You may need to have your own transport to get to work.

As a unit manager, your responsibilities might include: 

  • Managing, protecting, and monitoring the unit’s environmental impact by promoting sustainable practices and biosecurity across the site 
  • Planning for and overseeing pigs’ health and welfare needs 
  • Setting targets for livestock production to maximise profitability 
  • Overseeing livestock numbers and performance in line with targets 
  • Overseeing the sale, purchase and correctly recorded movement of livestock 
  • Monitoring and overseeing all farm financials, including budgets, cashflow, and costs  
  • Ensuring the farm operates to government regulations and legislation 
  • Ensuring financial, staff training, environmental, and farm assurance scheme records are accurate and up to date 
  • Recruiting, managing, and developing employees  
  • Overseeing all farm health and safety for employees  
  • Overseeing and maintaining relationships with external contractors, suppliers, and consultants 
  • Ensuring all buildings, equipment, and machinery are in good working order and comply with safety regulations 

To work as a unit manager in the pig sector, you should:

  • Be a dynamic and inspiring leader 
  • Be able to communicate and listen well to others 
  • Have good decision-making and problem-solving skills 
  • Be able to hand over tasks to others where appropriate 
  • Be organised and able to plan ahead 
  • Have a genuine interest in effective pig husbandry 
  • Be passionate about the farm business 
  • Be willing to learn and try different ideas/technologies 
  • Be resilient and ready to deal with industry demands and changes 
  • Be willing to take instruction and ideas from others, for example, from the farm owner or management consultants 

You could be appointed as a unit manager based on experience. However, a relevant qualification, such as an agriculture or farm business management degree, could increase your options.

This role would suit someone self-motivated, enthusiastic, and committed to making a difference to the industry.  

As a pig unit manager, you will take responsibility for managing unit operations and staff for maximum productivity. You will:  

  • Use business skills and knowledge to ensure the unit is financially stable 
  • Make sure the livestock are raised to a high standard  
  • Develop and manage plans for running the unit and for its future 
  • Manage and enforce health and safety and biosecurity rules 
  • Plan and manage pig production to attain set targets, including breeding, farrowing, and growing  
  • Plan and manage pig health and welfare personally and via staff  
  • Manage ​​effluent and fallen stock correctly, in line with legal requirements 
  • Be confident with the use of tractors and loaders 
  • Manage the recruitment, training, and development of employees so you can attract and keep good team members 
  • Lead staff to achieve goals 
  • Manage technical operations, including machinery, equipment, and vehicles. 
  • Update knowledge and skill through continuing professional development (CPD) 
  • Consider new pig unit technologies to help make the business more productive and profitable

Download our Unit manager (pigs) competency profile to find out more about these competencies and how they map with our Capability Framework.

Salaries typically start at about £30,000. However, this will rise depending on your level of experience, the number of animals on farm and location. More experienced team managers working on larger farms can expect to earn up to £50,000.

Housing (sometimes with tax allowances), transport, overtime payments, store discounts, work mobile and production bonuses may be included in the renumeration packages in this sector. This can make them far more rewarding than the headline financial salary offered. 

Full and part-time opportunities are available, and some weekend working and shift working may be required. 

You could progress further by developing your skills and knowledge by managing various farm businesses. Or you could progress to the level of farm director or operations director. There are also opportunities to work as a unit manager on different farms. 

You could also consider a position as a pig production consultant, providing technical support and advice to other unit managers. 

If you want to develop your knowledge and skills in international agriculture, you could also explore overseas farm careers.  

Courses which can help you on this career path include:

Level 3 Advanced Technical Certificate in Agriculture  

Level 3 Business Studies  

BSc in Agriculture with Farm Business Management  

FdSc Agriculture and Farm Management  

BSc Applied Farm Management  

BSc Agriculture  

BSc Agricultural and Livestock Science  

BA Business Studies  

TIAH Essential Skills

Our online Essential Skills modules can help you develop your skills and knowledge in a range of areas and are a great addition to your CV.

Anyone considering working as a unit manager in the pig sector would find our Animal Health and WelfareBiosecurityCoaching for Staff Retention, and Foundations in Farm Safety courses useful.

You can find out more about the diverse range of roles in the pig sector by listening to Ben Eagle's Meet the Farmers podcast, episode 150.


You can also find out more by reading this profile of Norfolk pig unit manager Ruth Thomas, from Farmers Weekly.

Return to our job profiles page for more exciting roles in farming and growing.