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Cautious Optimism over English Pig Numbers

by 5m Editor
6 March 2009, at 9:41am

ENGLAND, UK - Recently released December 2008 pig survey results suggest there may be grounds for some cautious optimism about the fortunes of the English pig industry, with an expansion in the breeding herd between June and December 2008.

Increasing feed costs in the year to June 2008 had led to escalating losses in the sector. One result of this was the historically high sow culling rate, partly as a result of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), in the first four months of 2008. Consequently, English sow numbers declined by eight per cent in the year to June 2008.

Between the middle of 2008 and the end of the year, feed prices moved lower. As a result, estimated net margins moved from negative to positive (albeit a small positive) in the autumn. Producers have appeared to respond to the margin improvements more rapidly than expected.

The English breeding herd in December was 8,000 head higher then in June, although still 6,000 (1.6 per cent) lower than in December 2007. Since January 2009, feed prices have risen, as have producers' prices, with consequent negative effects on profitability.

The total number of slaughter pigs in December – at 3.28 million – was two per cent lower than a year earlier. This reflects both the previous declines in the breeding herd and an element of backlog on farms in December 2007 arising from FMD movement restrictions. However, partly offsetting these factors, there was a further improvement in sow productivity in 2008.

Within the slaughter categories, the most marked decline was in the lightest category (up to 20 kg liveweight), which fell by eight per cent.

In June 2008, English producers accounted for 86 per cent of UK breeding sows and 82 per cent of slaughter pigs, so the England results will clearly have a significant influence on the overall UK results. The UK results will be published by Defra on 12 March.


Trends in the breeding herd in England, based on June and December census figures ('000 head)

Further Reading

- You can view the December 2008 census figures from DEFRA by clicking here.