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European Pig Herd in Decline?

by 5m Editor
27 June 2011, at 11:55pm

EU - During difficult periods within the European pig industry, many producers generally react by curtailing production levels by depopulating herds, reducing sow numbers or by exiting the industry, writes David Owens, Meat Division, Bord Bia - Irish Food Board.

This generally results in a decline in pig supplies and a lift in pig prices as per the ‘pig price cycle’. During the last feed crisis, in 2007/2008 production declined across Europe with reductions of over 20 per cent in many Eastern European countries. The more developed pig industries in EU-15 nations, due to the structure of the industry and the level of investment, react more slowly to difficult market periods.

Following only a few months of increased feed costs, last December’s European pig herd census reported a decline in EU sow numbers of two per cent compared to the previous year. Most nations within the EU reported declines in sow numbers, with greater falls evident again in Eastern Europe. The UK survey was in contrast to the rest of Europe with an increase of two per cent in sow numbers.

However, since these census figures were collected, on-farm issues have become much deeper and sow disposals have increased. A more recent April census return from Denmark, reported that sow numbers were down by six per cent with replacement gilts falling by 14 per cent. Sow disposals for Denmark and the UK have increased strongly this year, by eight per cent and 16 per cent, respectively.

For more detailed information on the EU pig herd census, please click here.

Pig supplies in the EU

An anticipated decline in pig production across the EU has been slow to emerge. The EU Commission forecast meeting from last April has indicated that production for the first half of 2011 will be around two per cent ahead of last year, aided by an increase in sow disposals. Looking ahead to the second half of the year they suggested stable output in quarter three with the decline expected to commence in the final quarter. For the year as a whole, production across the EU is forecast to increase by 0.9 per cent.