DETAILED ANALYSIS of DEFRA‘s provisional June pig census indicates a potential recovery in the UK herd size.

Although breeding pig numbers fell by 2% over the year, to 585,000, the rate of decline has slowed.

Encouragingly, the number of maiden gilts for future breeding has risen by 7%. 

An increase in the number of progeny pigs under 50kg is another welcome sign that better sow productivity and lower mortality are emerging.

This should lead to a slight increase in abattoir throughput for the second half of 2004 and bring associated savings in slaughter costs. 

UK finished pig slaughter figures also increased marginally for the first time since 1998.

And a rise in sow prices to their current high levels of about 82p/kg is reported to be encouraging producers to restock older sows with younger, more productive gilts.

UK pig meat output has also improved, with average carcass weights rising by 1kg over the past year – equivalent to almost 8,000t of annual production.

Stabilisation of UK pig meat output should prevent further abattoir closures in a sector which has seen a 56% drop in the number of specialist pig abattoirs over the past ten years.