Lower mortality and more pigs finished a sow a year have given the British pig industry a boost. But it still remains one of the highest cost producers according to the latest BPEX publication.

The Pig Cost of Production report, for 2007, before the introduction of the PCV2 vaccine scheme, has just been published. It covers not only European producers but also Brazil, Canada and the USA. It shows Britain second only to Italian Parma ham production in terms of cost of production.

In 2007 overall production costs rose by 12% and much of that was due to higher feed costs. This was also the average increase across Europe.

But by December, the figure had reached 139.6p/kg, 18p higher than the annual average.

The main points are:

• Post-weaning mortality in Great Britain continued to decline in 2007, down from 8% to 7%, and it is now much closer to the EU average. Mortality fell in both the rearing and finishing herds.

• The decline in post-weaning mortality gave a further boost to the numbers of pigs finished a sow in Great Britain. This was up from 19.7 to 20.1, the third consecutive year there had been an improvement.

• Average daily liveweight gain for finishing herds rose by 28g to 683g in 2007, the fourth consecutive annual increase.

• A sharp fall in pre-weaning mortality meant that pigs weaned rose slightly to 21.61. This was 7% below the EU average of 23.26, the same differential as in 2006.

• A decline in the sterling/Euro exchange rate. In September 2008, the euro was worth 80p compared with 69p a year earlier, a 14% change. This would lead to an improvement in relative competitiveness of Great Britain pig production.

BPEX Chief Executive Mick Sloyan said: “It is encouraging that underlying physical performance is still improving, but we do have a long way to go.

“The value of this report is that it highlights and quantifies in a comprehensive manner where the challenges lie for the English pig sector.

“It is a valuable document not only for the industry, but also for BPEX, as we will be using it to inform our strategy.

“We will also be looking at the changes in the exchange rate which present quite an opportunity to compete more effectively in Europe.

“The report refers to 2007, but since then we have seen a substantial shift in the exchange rate between sterling and the euro, which will have wiped out almost all of the cost disadvantage we are suffering.”

The report does take a look at the start of 2008 as well and points out that a positive factor has been the distribution of the PCV2 vaccine, assisted by BPEX, to English pig producers.

This vaccine is used to control PMWS and should, therefore, lead to reduced post-weaning mortality and an increase in pigs finished a sow. The programme began in April and has been very successful. The impact of this is likely to be seen in results for 2009.