English breeding herd largely stable in December
DEFRA figures from the 1 December 2015 pig survey show a surprising decline in the total pig herd, with reported numbers falling 4% to 3.53 million head.
This is the first time since 2012 that DEFRA have stated a fall in the total pig numbers in their December census. This apparent decrease in the total pig herd comes over a period where slaughterings were up on the year, having been up 4% to 10.6 million head in 2015. Therefore, this raises the question of how a reported diminishing pig herd has been able to support increased supply. The figures would suggest that production levels may decrease in the first half of 2016 but to date the reverse of this has been true, even though over half the feeding pigs at the start of December should have been finished by now.
However, the breeding herd is reported to have remained largely stable at 317,000 head, a 1% increase on a year earlier. Of this, while the number of in-pig sows increased 5% to 220,000 head, the number of in-pig gilts decreased significantly and the number of maiden gilts increased. This would suggest that, while the breeding herd was yet to see any rationalisation by 1 December 2015, producers may have been delaying serving some of their maiden gilts. The UK pig price has continued to fall significantly following the census date, so we would expect that some of the breeding herd may have come forwards to slaughter since then, to tighten supplies later on in 2016.
Vikki Campbell, Senior Analyst
vikki.Campbell@ahdb.org.uk, 024 7647 8741