1 November 1996

National pig herd grows by 0.5%

By Tim Relf

THE widely-anticipated expansion of the national pig herd is under way, according to latest census results.

Buoyant prices have, it seems, narrowly outweighed farmers cautious approach to expansion, and the August survey shows a 0.5% rise in the size of the breeding herd compared with 12 months ago.

A small but, nevertheless, concrete sign of growth, say analysts.

Plans for future expansion were also indicated by changes in the numbers of younger breeding pigs. Over 10% more gilts not yet in-pig were recorded.

And this may be further reflected in the December census, when the breeding herd could reach 755,000 head (up 2% on last year), according to the Meat and Livestock Commission.

As for clean pig slaughterings, however, no year-on-year increase in supplies is likely to be seen until the second half of 1997.

So this cannot, therefore, be held responsible for the weakening of prices, seen recently.

Part of the reason for this trend – an "ominous one for the time of year" – is the excess supply of heavyweight pigs, suggests auctioneer Peter Crichton at Wickham, Suffolk.

"While the abattoirs are looking for lighter-weights, producers have been tempted to push to heavier weights."

But the message is filtering through, he says, and farmers are now selling them at between 80 and 85kg, rather than taking them to 95-100kg.

This trend toward bigger pigs is borne out in the survey results. Fattening animals in the 80-110kg range were nearly 9% more numerous than a year earlier.

UK August pig survey

1996% change

(000 head)on 95

Sows in-pig478-1.4

Gilts in-pig111+15.6

Other sows156-3.1

Total breedingherd746+0.5

Gilts not yetin-pig104+10.6