Moderate contraction in UK pig herd in December
DEFRA figures from the 1 December 2015 pig survey show a moderate decline in the total UK pig herd.
This was largely driven by the surprising decline in pig numbers recorded in the English census, which was published at the beginning of March. The pig herd size is reported to have fallen 2% to 4.4 million head. As seen in the English census results, this decrease in the total pig herd comes at a time of increased clean pig slaughterings and higher production, so it raises some questions over the accuracy of the movement in total pig numbers. Feeding pig numbers were stated to have fallen 3%, which would suggest that production should fall in the first half of 2016. However, production levels have been increasing year-on-year in the first two months of 2016 and an imminent reverse seems unlikely.
The female breeding herd was reported to have grown by 3% on a year earlier, to 401,000 head. This upward movement was largely due to rises in Scotland (+12%) and Northern Ireland (+6%), with slower growth in England. Of the total, the number of in-pig sows increased 7%, while the number of in-pig gilts decreased by 5%. The number of maiden gilts also increased 5% on a year earlier. This movement would suggest that producers may be delaying serving their gilts while pig prices are falling. Although no reduction was recorded in the breeding herd at the start of December, the pig price has fallen significantly since then. Therefore, it could be inferred that some of the breeding herd may have come forward to slaughter since December, helping to tighten supplies later on in the year.
Vikki Campbell, Senior Analyst
vikki.Campbell@ahdb.org.uk, 024 7647 8741