Backlog of cull sows continues to grow

More needs to be done to reduce the growing backlog of cull sows, despite the lifting of pigmeat exports from some foot and mouth low-risk areas, the National Pig Association has claimed.

The Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) decision will allow pigmeat exports under strict conditions from Scotland, Wales and certain northern and western counties in England.

But abattoirs allowed to export must also operate within the same low risk areas.

Two of the three largest cull sow exporters are situated in Essex which although in an FMD low risk area, are currently within the “no new trade” region from which exports continue to be banned.

UK cull sow slaughterings normally average between 3,500 – 4,000 head/week. 

Since the original 3rd August FMD outbreak, sow slaughterings have been severely disrupted for a total of seven weeks. 

When additional unsold breeding gilts are added to the figure, an estimated backlog of over 30,000 sows await culling.

Coupled with this are reports from Europe that manufacturing pigmeat and cull sow prices are continuing to decline and there are only effectively seven full trading weeks before demand is cut as Christmas approaches.

The National Pig Association are calling for urgent action to allow cull sow exports to take place across wider parts of the country, subject to stringent veterinary and health controls.

The NPA will be making representations before the next SCoFCAH meeting on the 17th October when it is hoped that subject to no further FMD outbreaks, the FMD low risk area can be extended.

In addition to routine cullings, a recent pig industry census conducted by the NPA warns that producers representing over 25% of the UK pig herd cannot continue in production beyond December 2007 unless they receive a significant increase in finished pig prices.

British Pig Executive statisticians are currently preparing a Government submission including these facts and the associated threat to the nation’s pigmeat supplies.

Finished pig prices are also being held in check by the lack of exports which provide a valuable outlet for the “fifth quarter” of the pig for which there is little home demand.

Spot bacon prices which are currently quoted at circa 100p/kg d/wt are now quoted at their lowest levels since September 2004 when feed wheat was traded at £62/tonne compared with £160/ tonne today.

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