THE UK PIG herd has almost halved over the past eight years and production costs are now the highest in Europe.

The provisional EU May 2004 pig census shows the UK herd constitutes only 3.7% of the total sow population in the enlarged EU.

GB variable costs for the six months ending December 2003 were £47.25 per baconer produced by breeder/feeder herds, according to Agrosoft.

Fixed costs, which can account for a further 40-50% of total spending, lift break-even figures to between 95p and 105p/kg deadweight.

This expenditure is the highest in Europe and is linked to poor physical production from UK pig units nearing the end of their useful life.

GB feed costs were the highest in Europe in 2002, according to the British Pig Executive.

And production of 18.22 pigs sold per sow/year was the lowest of the eight main EU pig producing countries.

Daily liveweight gain was also the poorest among the main EU producers apart from Italy, where heavy pigs for Parma ham are produced.

The key findings from these statistics are that in countries with high capital costs and intensive systems, variable and fixed costs are inevitably lower. 

Unless GB producers invest more in similar systems which are sufficiently welfare friendly to meet retailers‘ requirements it will remain hard for our industry to compete.

As a result the National Pig Association is launching a campaign to persuade producers to improve or re-introduce herd recording.

It claims that accurate recording will help to increase productivity and reduce costs, enabling domestic producers to better compete with cheap imports.