English pig herd relatively stable in December
As at 1 December 2016, the UK pig herd stood at 3.6 million head, 2% (78,000 head) higher year on year, according to the latest Defra livestock survey.
Pig prices have been significantly higher than year earlier levels, suggesting there has been a tightening of supplies. In addition, production levels in the second half of 2016 began to fall back, which would indicate a decreasing pig herd. Therefore, the increase in herd size from December 2015 to December 2016 is a little surprising. However, the increase in pig prices may be beginning to attract more producers back, so this may account for the positive move year-on-year.
As with the total herd, the female breeding herd was reported to have increased by 2% on the year, to 324,000 head. The amount of sows in pig was up 4% and the number of gilts in-pig was up by 15%, while the number of maiden gilts decreased by 4% year on year. Given that sow slaughterings were up during 2016, it is somewhat surprising to see an increase in the breeding herd. In addition, the production of breeding feed was back in 2016, which would again support a decrease in the breeding herd. However, as with the total pig herd, producers may be increasing their breeding stock to capitalise on the improved prices reported throughout the final three quarters of 2016. This may also account for the rise in gilts in-pig and the decrease in the numbers of maiden gilts, as producers replenish their breeding herds.
Millie Askew, Analyst
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