German pig numbers pick up

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Provisional figures from the November pig census indicate that the number of pigs in Germany has started to pick up. At 27.5 million head, the total pig herd as at 3 November was almost 1% higher compared to both May 2017 and year earlier levels.

The overall growth was primarily driven by a 3% (+174 thousand head) rise in young pigs, between weaning and 50kg. This suggests that the current, ample supply of pigs is likely to remain at least into early 2018, supporting production levels. With the breeding herd still contracting in the May census, it is likely this expansion has been supported by live imports; in the year to September, both Denmark and the Netherlands reported an increase in weaner exports to Germany, compared to 2016 levels.

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A small increase of less than 1% (+42 thousand head) was also recorded in piglet numbers, which in the absence of breeding herd growth suggests there has been some improvement to sow productivity. In fact, the female breeding herd was virtually stable on the year at 1.9 million head. Within this, there was a modest increase in overall gilt numbers, but this was countered by a decline in sows. Expanding gilt numbers can be suggestive of upcoming breeding herd growth. However, in Germany this could be tempered by uncertainty in the sector, given the upcoming ban on castration without anaesthetic.

Despite the overall rise in pig numbers, the census also indicates consolidation in the sector. The number of pig farms continued to decline over the year, falling by 4% to 23,500 while breeding farms fell by 6% to 8,300.

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Bethan Wilkins, Analyst

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