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UK's breeding sow performance stalls

New analysis from Bethan Wilkins at AHDB finds that previous improvements in breeding sow performance have stalled in recent months.

8 September 2021, at 8:31am

Latest figures from Agrosoft on the performance of GB pig producers show a lack of further productivity gains for the breeding herd over recent months.

The latest figures cover the 12 months to the end of June 2021. The average number of pigs weaned per sow per year was 26.4, virtually the same as the average for the 12 months to March. This was also 0.1 pigs fewer than the 12 months to June 2020. Although we have recently seen an increase in pigs born alive per litter (the latest average stands at 13.5), a reduction in litters per sow per year, and higher pre-weaning mortality (now at 12.5%) counteracts this.

Indoor herds have seen a decline in productivity, with pigs weaned per sow per year falling to 27.6. This is a decline of 0.1 compared to the 12-months to March 2021, and a drop of 0.3 versus the 12 months to June 2020.

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For outdoor herds productivity has actually continued to improve. Pigs weaned per sow per year averaged roughly 24.6 in the latest period, 0.1 more than in the 12-months to March 2021 and 0.2 more than in the 12-months to June 2020. Outdoor herds have not seen the number of litters per sow per year drop off to the same extent.

The lack of improvement in performance comes at a time when producers are facing extremely difficult financial conditions. However, even if herd performance had been the same as in the 12 months to June 2020, this would have a negligible effect on profitability. In fact, even if producers were able to wean an average of 31 pigs/sow/year (roughly equivalent to the top 10% of performance), production costs in quarter two would still have averaged over 175p/kg*. With the APP during Q2 averaging 154p/kg, this would still indicate losses of about 20p/kg. While physical performance is important, and the dynamics of each farm will vary, the challenging high costs being faced at the moment are not something that can be countered by improving breeding performance alone.

*Assuming all other performance metrics and costs remain the same. The top 10% of British indoor producers achieved 33.2. The top 10% of British outdoor produced achieved 28.6.

Words: Bethan Wilkins