The effects of the feed crisis are starting to show on the pig market, with increased sow slaughterings and an overall drop in production compared with last year.

Pigmeat production in September was 3% lower year-on-year at 64,000t, due to lower carcass weights and fewer clean pig slaughterings.

Increased sow slaughterings last month mean this trend may continue well into the second half of 2013, with fewer piglets being born as a result, said Stephen Howarth, senior analyst at BPEX.

September saw adult boar and sow slaughterings increase by 3,500 head on the year to 23,800.

“This is mainly because of the higher feed prices, as some people are leaving the industry, while others are downsizing,” said Mr Howarth.

“There is always a background level of sow slaughterings as older, less productive sows are replaced, but nothing else accounts for this increase.”

Another factor in the fall in pigmeat production is lower carcass weights.

The average clean pig carcass weight in September was more than a kilogramme below the average for the same time in 2011 at 77.8kg. This is due to producers marketing pigs earlier than usual, freeing up cash to buy more feed, said Mr Howarth.

“There is a cut-off point where it becomes uneconomical to feed animals further, which drops as the cost of feed goes up,” said Mr Howarth.

“Some producers will have calculated this, but the likelihood is that for most, marketing early will be more of a cashflow thing.”

Despite producers marketing early, clean pig throughputs were down noticeably on the year in September for the first time in 2012.

The total number of clean pigs slaughtered in the UK reached 785,000 head, almost 2% lower than the same month in 2011, but this was anticipated, Mr Howarth said.

“We were expecting to see clean pig slaughterings fall, as September 2011 was particularly high, but this month we should see a return to normal levels, with October 2012 throughputs higher than the same time in 2011.”

England and Wales throughputs were down 2% at 608,000 head, while Scotland and Northern Ireland slaughtering figures remain virtually unchanged at 49,000 and 128,000 respectively.

Robyn Vinter on G+

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