English pig herd grew in 2014
Latest figures from Defra show that the English pig herd increased by 2% in the year to December 2014.
At 3.66 million head, the herd was at its largest size in at least five years. These figures suggest that the recent year-on-year growth in pig meat production is likely to continue in the short-term at least. This could mean that finished pig prices remain under pressure, although there is likely to be some seasonal tightening of supplies in the coming months.
In contrast, the figures record a 4% fall in the English breeding herd, compared with December 2013. The published number of 313,000 head would represent the smallest sow herd for over half a century. However, this figure should be treated with caution as the June survey showed an even bigger fall but that was not supported by subsequent clean pig slaughterings. The more detailed figures show a particularly sharp fall for in-pig gilts, which may be an indication that producers have been replacing fewer sows due to low cull prices. This is also supported by a rise in the number of suckling and dry sows.