By Peter Crichton

THE pig industry is at last waking up to a numbers crisis.

Forward projections are pointing to a weekly kill of less than 200,000 next spring.

The end-of-October weekly kill has already slumped to 216,000, down 23% on the year.

Recent patterns have shown that the slaughter figures each spring are generally down by 15-20% compared with the previous autumn due to summer infertility and the seasonal breeding cycle.

This feature is expected to be repeated next spring and will depress numbers still further.

There are also a number of additional reasons for this dramatic prediction.

Two years of negative returns have taken their toll on herd sizes and in many cases gilt replacement rates have been slashed or farm saved stock has been used.

Home-bred gilts are often less prolific and clear evidence is emerging of smaller litter numbers and sizes.

Some producers have also been forced to retain worn out sows and these too will be producing fewer progeny pigs in the future.

With MAFF expected to announce final details of the Outgoers Scheme in early December, more producers may be tempted into a final exit from pig production.

The ravages of PDNS and PMWS have knocked out 20-30% of vulnerable weaner pigs in affected East Anglian herds.

Vets in the north of the country are also reporting the spread of this killer virus, known as PCV2, into their region.

If this takes a hold potential finished pig numbers will be hit hard in the months ahead.

CSF has also eaten into the number of slaughter pigs available on the market in East Anglia.

On-farm slaughter has accounted for almost 60,000 pigs and the Welfare Slaughter Scheme for over 130,000.

These totals are equivalent to the whole UK kill for one week.

Industry sources believe that the fall in the number of slaughter pigs will result in more abattoir closures and mergers with further announcements under this heading expected in the near future.