By Peter Crichton

THE lethal cocktail of disease, movement restrictions and low prices is at last beginning to tell in the marketplace.

Although the UK weekly kill has been holding up at over 200,000 pigs per week, returns from breeding units are indicating a “black hole” in finished pig numbers to come.

Breeding herd conception rates are dropping, with both outdoor and indoor units finding it hard to maintain conception rates, and in some cases returns to service are as high as 40%.

The eight-month ban on cull-sow exports means the number of unproductive breeding females in most herds has risen sharply.

And the effects of PDNS and PMWS are continuing to hit progeny pig output.

This virus has spread to most parts of the UK, with Yorkshire and the North particularly badly affected.

Pig numbers in these areas are forecast to decline by 10-15%, and there have been isolated reports of single unit mortality as high as 40%.

However, the resumption of pigmeat exports and the perception of fewer pigs in the marketplace has already led to improvements in finished pig prices.

The UK AESA has staged a substantial recovery, moving up 1.5p to 95.9p/kg.

Spot quotes are also rising and traders are bidding 100-104p/kg for bacon pigs.

Prices in the eastern and southern part of the country seem to be 2p to 4p/kg higher than in the north.

This is believed to be due in part to the recent Malton announcement of an estimated 30% cut in slaughtering levels, leaving a surplus of pigs in the North.

  • Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry