Danish herd growth continues to accelerate

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The latest figures from Statistics Denmark indicate that as at 1 January 2018, the Danish total pig herd was over 4% larger than year earlier levels at 12.8 million head.

This means the rate of expansion has increased again since the October census, when the pig herd had only grown 3% on year earlier levels.

The female breeding herd was up 2% overall, with numbers of both in-pig sows and in-pig gilts up by 3% on the year. As such, higher piglet production would be expected to continue in the short term. Maiden gilt numbers, however, were down 4% on the year. This may imply caution about any further expansion, given pig prices have been declining in recent months.

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Particularly strong growth was recorded in piglet numbers, which were 6% higher than in last January. Weaners (under 50kg) were also more abundant, up 5% on the year to 6 million head. Interestingly, 3% growth was also recorded in the number of slaughter pigs (over 50kg), the first year-on-year increase since October 2014.

An increase in Danish slaughterings might therefore be anticipated for 2018, which would be the first expansion since 2011. This could support Danish export volumes; fresh/frozen pork exports were down 3% on year earlier levels in the year to October 2017. Denmark is the primary supplier of imported pork to the UK market, and so the UK might experience increasing pressure from imports this year. Although, it may be challenging for Denmark to achieve significant production growth due to a shortage of workers in the agri-food sector.

The expanding piglet numbers should also continue to support weaner exports. Preliminary figures suggest Danish weaner exports were already 7% higher in 2017 compared to year earlier levels; demand is reportedly rising in Poland and Italy, where Danish genetics are favoured

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Bethan Wilkins, Analyst

bethan.wilkins@ahdb.org.uk, 024 7647 8757