Cold snap challenges pig productivity

Arctic weather conditions with forecasts of more to come have brought a combination of benefits and challenges to UK pig producers.

With rising energy costs indoor units are facing a surge in heating bills for farrowing and flat deck accommodation.

During cold weather feed consumption goes up as pig energy levels increase and growth rates decline.

Respiratory, viral and secondary infections also tend to rise when pigs are challenged by extremely cold weather leading to higher mortality and medication bills.

Outdoor production which now accounts for over 30% of the UK sow breeding herd also faces challenges during cold weather.

These include carting water by hand to outdoor sow paddocks where pipes are frozen and increased straw usage to help keep pigs warm.

During cold weather periods farrowing sows will often “double up” in individual sow huts leading to over lying of young piglets and greater pre-weaning losses.

On the positive side, long periods of cold weather can improve grading results with premium prices available for lean “Q” grade pigs.

The recent spell of cold temperatures has also helped to improve demand for pigmeat from Eastern Europe and Russia.

Manufacturing grade pigmeat favoured by the Eastern European sector has lifted cull sow quotes which until recently have been languishing at below 70p/kg compared with 75p/kg in January 2005.

While the cold snap continues additional exports from the EU to Russia should also help to keep the flow of pigmeat imports into the UK at lower levels.