Numbers Up and Productivity Better for UK pig herd

UK - Meat and Livestock Commission figures show an increase in UK pig breeding numbers. The national herd is up 2% to 449,000 head, according to the MLC’s December 2006 survey.
calendar icon 1 May 2007
clock icon 3 minute read
MLC says that the increase may partly be due to an underestimate of herd size in December 2005. Numbers are likely to fall again by the end of the year because of the increased costs arising from Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control and legislation surrounding Nitrate Vulnerable Zones. Fluctuating feed prices and pressure on US grain markets from bio-fuel manufacturing will also have an impact and forecasters predict UK herd numbers down to 440,000 head by the end of 2007.
An increase in sow productivity to 20 pigs per sow per year is welcome news and some reports suggest improvements of a further 3% can be expected in 2008. If these predictions ring true, then clean pig slaughterings will be 9.34 million this year, up by almost half a million pigs on 2006 figures.
Average pig carcase weights are expected to increase again. Currently at 75.6kg, the steady rise in finished weights is linked to higher productivity and should add a further 6% to total pigmeat production for the UK. This will be the first annual pigmeat production rise since 1998 and MLC expects a further 1% increase in 2008, which is good news.
Higher slaughterings could also force a drop in imported pork, which UK producers would welcome, although imported product remains more competitive.
But exports are promising and UK pigmeat tonnage is forecast to rise to 107,000 tonnes this year from 102,000 tonnes in 2006. This is probably due to an increased in cull sow numbers and mirrors reports of higher gilt replacement rates by a number of breeding companies.
The primary challenge for EU pig producers is escalating feed costs. Ex-farm feed wheat quotes are heading towards £100/tonne, compared with £71/tonne a year ago. Unless EU pigmeat values increase by more than 5% for the second half of this year, many UK herds will down size leaving the country’s national status at below 3.5% of the EU total.
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