THE SIZE of the UK pig herd is stabilising, according to latest pig census figures from DEFRA.

The June 2004 census reports a fall of just 3% in the size of the breeding herd to 406,000 in-pig sows and gilts.

A rise in the number of replacement gilts being retained for future breeding may also be a sign of more stability returning to the industry, which has seen the size of the national herd halved over the past six years.

Meanwhile, better demand boosted spot bacon quotes on Fri, Sept 3, from 92-94p/kg early in the day to close at 96-99p.

Cutter quotes also improved, to 100-104p/kg, and sow prices rose to 80-82p/kg.

Weaners remain undervalued, with the Meat and Livestock Commission 30kg average static at £30.24/head ex-farm.

Weaner traders claim that better finished pig prices and lower feed costs should boost the market by £2-£4/head in the autumn.

But despite the improved picture a sustained period of higher pig meat prices will be necessary before many producers‘ returns are back in the black.