By Simon Wragg

WEANER prices continue to hold, despite overtaking the rise in finished pig prices.

That means finisher margins are tighter, but buyers continue to meet the trade as prospects of a shortfall in supplies are realised after the recent sow cull, report auctioneers.

“There is no doubt in the country about a shortage in weaners to come forward, but Im surprised prices are holding,” says York-based auctioneer Edward Stephenson.

“The fat price doesnt reflect the store price.”

The markets weekly entry of 500 growers saw a firm trade with 8 to 10-week-old pigs average £28.24, 10 to 12 week olds average £29.07 and 12 weeks and older average £37.16. “With finished prices between £59-£64 a head theres very little margin,” he adds.

With finished prices expected to improve to over £1/kg deadweight in the back end of this year some buyers may be spurred on to pay a bit more now to have stock ready. “I think many of the faces were seeing have contracts to fill and that may be driving it.”

Elsewhere the picture is similar. At Melton Mowbray auctioneer Alistair Belton adds an air of caution to any suggestion weaner prices will continue to improve.

“I dont think producers have the long-term confidence,” says Mr Benton. “If anything it is the smaller producer who is seeing a margin. Its certainly not bustling.”

While 60kg stores are making £33 a head the real interest is in younger pigs: “But that is highly dependent on their quality.”

Mr Benton suspects further strengthening of the weaner price will be hindered by the aftermath of the on-going pig crisis. Buyers are eager to take advantage of extra income from when finished prices rise, but are uncertain whether current predictions will live up to expectation.

SAC economist Garth Entwhistle says forecasts should hold true. Last years sow cull will reduce stores forwarded and make domestic supplies tighter. “There is confidence, but it will only remain while there is a preference for UK-sourced supplies (from retailers).”

At Colchester market Graham Ellis believes some buyers are confident, albeit tinged with bitterness. “Clearly, those who are in want to stay in and will continue to buy,” says Mr Ellis.