Structure of the UK Pig Industry

More than one quarter of British sows are now kept outdoors, according to a survey of producers of Assured British Pigs, and around 35 per cent no longer routinely clip the teeth or dock the tails of piglets. ThePigSite editor, Jackie Linden, summarises the findings of the latest survey into housing, feeding and husbandry practices on pig farms in the UK, where pressure to raise animal welfare standards is particularly strong.
calendar icon 6 February 2009
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At the end of 2008, BPEX published the results of a survey of Assured British Pig producers into the feeding, housing and routine procedure carried out on their farms. The report was prepared by Tony Fowler of the Economic and Policy Analysis Group.


Just over half (51 per cent) pig farmers responding to the survey are home-mixing feed, with 12 per cent using liquid dairy by-products and 15 per cent using non-dairy liquid by-products. Only 14 per cent of respondents are using dry co-products in their feed.

For sows, the majority (53 per cent) received pellets. One-third were fed meal, 10 per cent were wet-fed and 4 per cent received some other combination.

Almost three-quarters of weaners were fed pellets (44 and 30 per cent without and with antibiotics, respectively). Five per cent received a meal without antibiotic, and 3 per cent a meal with antibiotic. Four per cent are wet-fed. Only three per cent were receiving pellets with antibiotics and a feed enzyme. Eleven per cent responded that they were using some other combination of feeding.

The majority of growing pigs were fed pellets (48 per cent without antibiotic and 7 per cent with antibiotics). Meal feeding was more common for growers (20 per cent without antibiotic and 2 per cent with antibiotic), and 11 per cent were given wet feed. Pellets with antibiotic and enzymes were fed to only 2 per cent of growers. Ten per cent of growers were feeding some other combination.

Exactly half of finishers receive unmedicated pellets (and just one per cent get pellets with antibiotic). Meal was given to 22 per cent of finishing pigs (21 per cent without antibiotic and just one per cent with antibiotic), and 16 per cent received wet feed. Eleven per cent of finishers received some other combination.


One in every four sows (26 per cent) is bred outdoors in the UK, but just one in twenty pigs (5 per cent) spend the growing period outdoors and one in a hundred are finished on free range.

For farrowing accommodation, the most common housing types are part slats (30 per cent), partly slatted crates (29 per cent) and fully slated crates (21 per cent). Twelve per cent of sows are in fully slatted pens, and 6 per cent in crates without slats. So, 56 per cent of UK sows farrow in some form of farrowing crate, while one cent are loose-housed indoors.

The most popular housing system for growing pigs is a solid-floored pen with bedding (38 per cent). Slatted floors are used on half of the farms (26 and 24 per cent in fully slatted and partly slatted pens, respectively). Twelve per cent of growers are in non-slatted pens without bedding.

Broadly similar housing is used for finishing pigs: 40 per cent on solid floors with bedding; 28 per cent on full slats; 30 per cent on part slats and just two per cent on solid floors without bedding.


To questions over routine husbandry procedures, the majority of piglets are teeth-clipped (57 per cent) and tail-docked (65 per cent).

No farms in the survey routine ear-notched pigs although 15 per cent did this to some pigs. Ear tattooing has also fallen out of favour, with just two per cent of herds routinely tattooed, and seven per cent carrying out the procedure on some pigs.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

February 2009
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