British pigs have performed better but the herd has shrunk by 7.2% over the past 12 months, according to the newly-published Pig Yearbook.

But the Meat and Livestock Commission, which compiles the data, also found a number of encouraging factors.

These include an increase in pigs weaned/sow/year, and reductions in grower/finisher mortality.

Carcass weights have also increased to an average of 75.1kg delivering an additional 87kg of meat sold per sow/year.

Growth efficiency rates are also rising and the Feed Conversion Ratio has improved in growing and finishing herds.

MLC forecasts for the remainder of 2006 indicate continuing improvements in performance with more pigs weaned per sow/year.

Providing better output is maintained, this should deliver a total of 1,475 kg of pigmeat per sow/year.

With more than 70% of pig finishing herds now members of the British Pig Health Scheme, early warning of emerging disease problems has also helped to improve herd performance and mortality.

A switch to outdoor breeding production, which now accounts for over 35% of pig output, is also believed to be contributing to better overall grower/finishing herd health. 

Many outdoor herds are now run on an “all in – all out” basis with no replacement breeding stock being admitted once the initial herd has been set up.

On the negative side, upcoming Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control regulations may force the closure of more large scale indoor units unable to meet compliance costs which become effective in January 2007.