Trainee of the Year

Susanne Mustard

Susanne Mustard, Karro Food Group

The achievements of Susanne Mustard, unit manager of Karro Food Group’s Dykeside outdoor unit of 1,000 breeding sows in Moray, are a real testament to the benefits of effective training.

Susanne grew up on the family farm rearing cattle and sheep and graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2013 with a Veterinary Bioscience degree.

She joined Karro’s Dykeside unit as a stockworker in August 2018, her first hands-on experience with pigs. She completed the six-month senior stockworker training in June 2019, having already begun managing Dykeside in May, before officially taking over in September 2019.

The unit, managed over 40ha, operates a three-week batch system producing high quality piglets, raised without antibiotics. Performance has steadily improved under her management.

“When I began working for Karro I had no experience of working with pigs,” she said. “Karro trained me how to work with the pigs and I soon recognised I had aptitude and was keen to learn more, so they fast-tracked me onto its senior stockworker training and then onto its unit manager training programme.”

To complete the senior stockworker training, Susanne had to look after the AI section for two months, followed by twomonth periods looking after the dry sows and the farrowing block.

To support her training as a unit manager, she attended a management essentials training course run by Karro’s HR department.

“This course helped me learn about how to deal with staff, which is the biggest challenge of running an outdoor pig unit,” she said.

She also attended a first aid training course and received training on how to drive a tractor.

“My career has benefited greatly,” she said. “I started managing a large breeding unit in just under a year of working with Karro and my training, along with the knowledge gained from my degree and my previous experience working with livestock, has enabled me to make the improvements to my unit in the short
time I have been managing it.”

She described winning the Trainee of the Year award, as ‘a huge personal achievement’. “I’m so pleased my hard work has been recognised. I think there’s a perception that working with pigs is an ‘easy’ job which requires little skill,” she said. “Because of this, it’s been a challenge to find the right people willing to put in the hard work, but now we have a great team of hard-working individuals who want to achieve the best.”

Her priority now is to continue improving the unit’s performance, while also focusing on enhancing her personal development.

“I’ll do this by gaining further qualifications and learning more about the pig sector beyond the breeding unit, as it’s important to understand the whole process to really appreciate what we do,” she said.

“My farm is really evolving at the moment – we have new machinery and equipment, along with new farrowing huts for the pigs. I think we’re going to see great benefits for the business following this investment.”

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