2013 outlook: Pigs

What does 2013 hold for UK farming? Farmers Weekly and farm business consultant Andersons have teamed up to provide an outlook. Today we look at pigs. 

With feed prices set to stay high at least until next harvest, there is a question mark about how many pig producers will destock, partially or fully, over the coming months.

The average cost of production has now been above the finished pig price since the autumn of 2010, says Andersons consultant Emily Evans.

“The AHDB is forecasting a drop in herd size of about 5%, to 405,000 sows, for 2013, with some small recovery in numbers towards the end of the year.”

Pigmeat production in the UK has risen strongly in recent years despite the static sow herd, says Ms Evans. “This is partly due to slaughtering at gradually increasing weights, which may decline in 2013 as finishers try to economise on expensive feed. This might pay, but beware of going too far – no one should risk falling out of the required specification.”

Key points and management advice

  • 5% breeding herd drop forecast for 2013

  • Review feed cost v finishing weight

  • Watch finish against specification

  • Continue drive for better productivity

  • Consider reinvestment planning

Improvement in productivity has also played a part, she adds. “The average number of pigs slaughtered per sow per year in 2005 was below 18; it is now above 22, narrowing the gap with our European competitors. Provided producers remain willing to learn, the figure will increase.”

The main hope for the sector is a likely reduction in the EU herd, due to some degree to the partial ban on sow stalls (from 1 January 2013) as well as increasing feed costs. This has already helped to firm EU prices, says Ms Evans. “A larger drop in production is forecast for 2013, which hopefully will see prices improve further.”

For some producers this could be a good time to consider reinvesting after the recent lack of profits, says Ms Evans. “Those committed to the long term should at least prepare so they are ready to push the button when better times do return.”

Commentary based on Andersons’ Outlook 2013

More on this topic

Keep up to date with the latest Business news

See more