CULL SOW prices are at their highest levels since foot-and-mouth, opening up opportunities for producers to destock and restock unproductive herds.

A well-finished cull sow has an average value of £120/head compared with just £40/head in the midst of the F&M crisis.

Breeders should be able to replace cull sows with gilts on a “one for one” basis. 

Although an entire herd destock/restock can put a strain on cashflow it can be achieved by indoor and outdoor units with access to additional premises or land.

A “running destock/restock” plan allows replacement gilts to be delivered onto clean land or premises whilst the existing herd is being run down. 

As old stock are culled, gilt replacements will come into the production cycle to ensure that pig output remains constant throughout the restocking period.

Trial work carried out by the JSR pig breeding group has indicated savings in feed conversion, improved growth and prolificacy worth up to 11p/kg d/wt.

Producers who slaughtered out their herds due to Aujeskeys Disease, Classical Swine Fever and F&M have all reported significant benefits from restocking their herds.

Any break in the production cycle can deliver benefits in terms of animal health and with PDNS/PMWS still causing problems throughout the UK the restocking option is receiving close attention from large and small scale breeders.

Based upon Meat and Livestock Commission performance figures JSR has calculated that the financial benefit to a restocked 500 sow herd is worth almost £100,000 a year. 

Strict bio-security measures to ensure staff and machinery do not pass between the old and the new herds are essential to maintain herd health.

The initial costs of heightened bio-security are more than offset by improvements in herd output and efficiency.