Fewer UK sows but more pigs to finish
Publication of UK figures from the December 2014 Livestock Survey confirms that the pig herd is expanding, with an overall increase of 3% on the year.
This brings the total number of pigs to 4.5 million head, the highest December population since 2008. This is primarily the result of feeding pigs, of which there were 4% more on the year, topping 4 million head and contributing to corresponding increases in pig meat production. As previously published, Northern Ireland reported a 9% increase in their herd, while Scottish figures show a 10% increase. There was a smaller rise in England.
Overall herd increases have been achieved by improved productivity in the breeding herd, which is reported to have shrunk by 2%. However, the June survey showed an even larger fall which was not supported by subsequent data so the figures should be treated with some caution. With fewer in-pig gilts and sows reported, some reigning-in of the increase in feeding pigs might be expected in the medium-term. Feed prices have been favourable, but uncertainty in the finished market may now be filtering through to producers. Additionally, the fall in gilts reported to be in pig may be the result of increased sow retention, as cull sow prices are poor.