Falling English pig herd
According to the December figures published by Defra, the pig herd in England fell by 1% compared with a year earlier, to 3.7 million head.
This was largely the result of slightly lower fattening pig numbers, which were also down 1%. The decline is perhaps reasonable, considering expectations that the hot summer last year dampened sow fertility levels. However, pig census results are not always representative of trends in commercial pig farming so should always be viewed with caution. The June 2018 survey results indicated a 2% increase in fattening pigs, but English slaughterings were actually stable over this period.
The female pig breeding herd reportedly fell by 1% compared to the previous year in December, which would indicate stable productivity considering piglet numbers declined by a similar amount. This seems at odds with industry reports of fertility difficulties. Sows in-pig were down a more noticeable 2% while gilts in pig fell as much as 7%. Maiden gilt numbers were reportedly stable, though this figure has now been the same for three years despite the fortunes and investment in the pig industry varying considerably over this time period.
The full UK survey results are due to be published on 14 March.
Bethan Wilkins, Analyst
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