English pig herd declines in the first half of 2015
The English pig herd decreased by 3% to 3.8 million head compared to a year earlier, according to the June Agricultural Survey figures published by Defra.
The decline in the total number of pigs was mainly driven by the drop in numbers of feeding pigs, of 4% to 3.4 million head in June 2015 compared to the previous year. Numbers are back for all weight bands suggesting a fall in pig slaughterings from June onwards. However, clean pig slaughterings have remained up year on year throughout 2015 suggesting the June survey results should be treated with caution.
The overall size of the breeding herd showed a small increase of less than half a percent to 413,000 head. Within this the female breeding herd recorded a marginal decrease of less than half a percent to 328,000 head. This is despite the number of sows in pig being up by 1% at 232,000 head but numbers of both gilts in pig and other sows were down 5% and 3% respectively. The reduction for the former category could partly be the result of producers retaining sows because of the ongoing low cull sow prices and which has been reflected in lower slaughterings of sows in the first half of the year. The ongoing weak finished pig market could also be impacting on producer decision making with prices having slipped below the cost of production in the first half of 2015. However, the number of maiden gilts increased by 3% in June to 72,000 head suggesting an upturn in replacements is now taking place.