By Peter Crichton

SIGNS are at long last emerging that the size of the national pig herd is set to decline.

Statistics recently published by Signet indicate that on-farm in-pig and maiden gilt numbers are down by a total of 3.5%, compared with the previous 12 months.

But the bad news is that the overall 15-nation EU herd size is up in all categories, with sows rising by 2.5%, in-pig gilts by 2% and maiden gilts by a massive 8.8%.

All of this spells more downward pressure on margins throughout the industry, and may mean that those producers who do not replace their stall-and-tether systems by the end of the year will get out, rather than meet the expense of the new regulations.

More evidence of a potential reduction in the UK herd size is provided by the latest sow slaughtering figures. These underline a surge in sow throughput in UK abattoirs, rising by 16% in the first quarter of 1998. Once the progeny pigs from these sows are out of the system, this will lead to a drop in the number of UK slaughter pigs on offer.

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