By Peter Crichton

THE UK pig herd is forecast to shrink by almost 25% by the end of the year, according to the latest pig census figures.

Added to this will be the estimated 60,000 pigs slaughtered on farms caught up in the swine fever epidemic, with more East Anglian herds under threat on a daily basis.

The Welfare Slaughter Scheme may account for a further 10,000-12,000 pigs per week taken out of the system and sent for rendering. The total handled could top 100,000 by the time the movement restrictions have been lifted.

PDNS and PMWS have led to an estimated 10% drop in the number of Eastern Counties progeny pigs in the system.

These diseases have now moved out of East Anglia, with reports of infected breeding herds in Lincolnshire and among rearing units in Yorkshire.

Some of the major breeding companies have conceded that a number of their supply sources may be PDNS positive, and this could spread to healthy herds.

Many producers who have seen their herds infected are still reporting high mortality, with little sign of the disease slackening its grip as winter approaches.

News of the financial collapse of the Newsham pig-breeding company has added to worries over the viability of other breeding companies who have been through almost three years of negative returns.

The June census reveals that the UK breeding herd has collapsed to 624,000 head compared with 802,000 two years earlier.

According to Signet, this will pull slaughterings down to under 13 million this year and well below that in 2001.

Although the weekly kill is now about 240,000 head the autumn period normally sees a lift in numbers followed by a decline in the early part of the following year when the collapse in the size of the breeding herd is expected to bite.

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