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UK Pig Herd Declined in December

21 March 2016, at 12:00am

UK - DEFRA figures from the 1 December 2015 pig survey show a moderate decline in the total UK pig herd, AHDB Pork has reported.

This was largely driven by the surprising decline in pig numbers recorded in the English census, which was published at the beginning of March.

The pig herd size is reported to have fallen 2 per cent to 4.4 million head. As seen in the English census results, this decrease in the total pig herd comes at a time of increased clean pig slaughterings and higher production, so it raises some questions over the accuracy of the movement in total pig numbers.

Feeding pig numbers were stated to have fallen 3 per cent, which would suggest that production should fall in the first half of 2016. However, production levels have been increasing year-on-year in the first two months of 2016 and an imminent reverse seems unlikely.

The female breeding herd was reported to have grown by 3 per cent on a year earlier, to 401,000 head. This upward movement was largely due to rises in Scotland (+12 per cent) and Northern Ireland (+6 per cent), with slower growth in England.

Of the total, the number of in-pig sows increased 7 per cent, while the number of in-pig gilts decreased by 5 per cent.

The number of maiden gilts also increased 5 per cent on a year earlier. This movement would suggest that producers may be delaying serving their gilts while pig prices are falling.

Although no reduction was recorded in the breeding herd at the start of December, the pig price has fallen significantly since then.

Therefore, it could be inferred that some of the breeding herd may have come forward to slaughter since December, helping to tighten supplies later on in the year.

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