Mixed Blessings for British Pork Industry

UK - The recent spell of Arctic weather has brought a package of missed blessings to the British pig industry, writes Peter Crichton in his latest Traffic Lights commentary.
calendar icon 6 December 2010
clock icon 4 minute read

Those on outdoor units are facing a titanic struggle with the weather and are spending a huge amount of time carting lumpy water to pigs, which will continue until signs of a thaw in freezing temperatures emerge.

The freezing conditions are also hitting born-alive rates with soaring mortality on outdoor pig units and will affect conception rates as the last thing that a boar (or an AI man) wants to be doing at present is jigging round in the great outdoors muttering sweet nothings into a sow's ear.

On the price front the DAPP took a slight upward step to 136.61p which put a stop to any of the big players dropping their weekly prices with Tulip standing on at 135p (plus 2p LDB), Cranswick and Vion neck and neck at 136p, and Woodheads still leading the field with a creditable 140p.

Although some supermarket shelves are reported to be empty and fresh meat demand in the high street has been good, because some pigs in the north have been unable to reach abattoirs this week and have been rolled into next week, none of the big players was looking for extra numbers, although demand was described as a "firm stand-on" from end to end.

As a result spot bacon was traded in the 134p–136p region according to spec and lighter pigs continue to earn modest premiums of 4p–6p above this.

A slight recovery in the value of the euro which closed on Friday worth 85.13p, up a shade from 84.7p a week earlier also helps to keep those dreaded imports at bay.

As expected sow prices held at similar but very lacklustre levels with quotes for large loads peaking at 96p on a delivered basis and with around 92p available ex-farm/collection centre, but this compares very unfavourably with sow prices a year ago when 106p was freely available, a drop of circa 320 per head.

Feed prices are continuing to soar with spot feed wheat on an ex-farm basis quoted at 3173 per tonne, which represents a 75 percent rise over the past 12 months... just a pity that pig prices have not gone up by a similar amount and are in fact travelling in the opposite direction.

Because of fears of reduced piglet numbers in the weeks ahead weaner prices have stopped falling and the latest AHDB 30kg ex-farm average is quoted at 342.18 per head, but this still provides a poor return for both the breeder and the finisher and may help to explain why British cull sow slaughterings have risen significantly in the past few weeks.

On a more positive note it is good to see that the NPA roadside banners campaign is being well supported, although several major players are still notable by their absence. But hopefully once they realise the unique value of point of sale advertising from outdoor pig units strategically stationed next to motorways and main roads, perhaps some extra sites will be offered.

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